Real talk, all of my tweets with #vietgirlsprobs are related to not being able to find a ton of authentic Vietnamese food in Austin, including bánh mì. It means “bread” in Vietnamese, but it colloquially refers to the sandwich as well. There are different kinds, like bánh mì đặc biệt (the special), bánh mì chay (vegetarian), bánh mì xíu mại (meatball), and the list goes on.
Bánh mì are usually toasted French baguettes filled with mayo, paté, cilantro, pickled daikon and carrots, jalapeños, cucumbers, sometimes a fried egg and various meats depending on which bánh mì you get. You might be thinking, “If it has the same ingredients every time, it should taste the same wherever you go to eat it, right?”
Wrong. Austin surprisingly has numerous places offering bánh mì, but not all bánh mì are created equal. Don’t go for the fusion stuff; real deal bánh mì sticks to the ingredients I mentioned above. If a place sells them for anything above $5, you’re not getting the good stuff. No good and honest bánh mì shop will overcharge you.
I tried the bánh mì đặc biệt (sometimes known as bánh mì thịt nguội) at all the places in order to judge fairly. Here are my picks for the top five bánh mì spots in Austin.
5. Thanh Nhi
Thanh Nhi is a small Vietnamese restaurant that serves a mean bowl of phở and other Viet staple dishes. While the sandwich was good overall, the bread was a little crunchy and dry. The sandwich is a little on the smaller side so it wasn’t as filling as I would’ve liked it to be.
Lily’s Sandwich is in the same plaza as Baguette House and takes cash only. Their sandwiches are really flavorful, but a bit too salty for my taste. The sandwiches are a good size, but the bread was kind of difficult to bite into because of the super hard crust from being toasted too long.
Tam Deli & Café is small, homey, and comfortable. Newspaper clips are scattered under glass tabletops, praising this little restaurant’s food throughout the years. Their sandwiches taste homemade, and their bread is soft with a light crunch. However, they weren’t as filling because of the small size.
Their sandwich prices aren’t spectacular; some sandwiches are priced under $5 whereas others were around $7. I’d stick with the ones under $5 unless you want to be adventurous and try their unconventional bánh mì combos. They take credit card payments for orders beyond the $5 minimum.
#SpoonTip: Order their kumquat lemonade. Tastes just like the one my mom makes at home and I guarantee it’ll have you smiling after the first sip.
2. Ng BMT
When I think of hole-in-the-wall, I think of Ng BMT. It’s a little stand located in the back of the Hong Kong Supermarket that burned down years ago and recently reopened. The makers and servers are nice, and make the sandwiches where you can watch.
Their bánh mì sells for $4 to $5 with their special shrimp bánh mì at $6. If you want to splurge on this unconventional bánh mì, I would recommend doing so… but only here and for this sandwich.
#SpoonTip: Get their cold soft tofu dessert with syrup. I get this every time I go because of how light, smooth and guilt-free it tastes, despite being sweet.
I found the best, most authentic bánh mì in Austin at Baguette House. They sell bánh mì and other sandwiches for around $4, give or take. They also sell other Vietnamese entrées, desserts and drinks. The ingredients are fresh (freshest cilantro on bánh mì I’ve ever tasted) and the bread is perfect.
It reminded me of summer day trips with family to Houston’s Chinatown (a.k.a. Bellaire), where the bánh mì is cheap and delicious. If you ever crave really good bánh mì in Austin, make sure to stop by Baguette House.
#SpoonTip: If you’ve never had nước mía (sugar cane juice), and didn’t know it existed until now, you can get it here. A regular-sized cup (16- or 20-ounce) sells for $4, which is a bit pricey for a drink. However, the refreshing and sweet taste may be worth the splurge.