The Vietnamese banh mi is a cross-cultural sandwich that arose from the French colonization of Vietnam. Traditional Vietnamese ingredients find themselves encased in an ode to the French baguette. The result is exquisitely complex; each bite bursts with sweet, sour, spicy and salty notes. And the low price tag — most places offer a buy-five-get-one-free deal and average around $2 per sandwich — makes them extremely budget-friendly. The sandwich appears in numerous variations, but the most popular seems to be the banh mi thit nuong, made with grilled or roasted pork, mayonnaise, Vietnamese paté, fresh cilantro, chili peppers (normally jalapeño), and slightly sweet pickled daikon and carrots.
Atlanta is teeming with Vietnamese restaurants that crank out the sandwiches. But who makes the best? I joined a crack team of ethnic food lovers for a blind banh mi taste-off and these spots garnered the highest scores with Quoc Hong – my personal favorite – taking top honors. Each place has its nuances – such as seating and the amount of sandwich fillings – but you can't go wrong at any of them.
Quoc Huong Banh Mi Fast Food: 5150 Buford Highway. 770-936-0605.
Viet Tofu: 4897 Buford Highway, Suite 105. 770-458-9011.
Lee's Bakery: 4005 Buford Highway. 404-728-1008.
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