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Apr 14, 2009 09:52 PM

Baoguette Saint Mark's

I've gotten sandwiches from their new location twice. The first time the baguette (traditional banh mi) was delicious, well balanced, not too expensive for the neighborhood at $5. We also got a sloppy bao, which was much less complex but also delicious. Today I stopped by and got another baguette, and the balance of the ingredients seemed off. This time the red "minced barbecue pork (nem nuong) with a sweet glaze" was the predominant ingredient, as identified in the New York Times' "Banh Mi Unstacked" illustration:
The sandwich was overly sweet and didn't have enough of the their tasty terrine or pork. I'm guessing they're still getting the kinks out and it'll be better next time. We also got a spicy catfish sandwich, which was even better than I expected: catfish with pickled red onions, some kind of spicy relish, and honey mustard aioli. Tastes better than it sounds! We topped it off with their pandan soft serve, which was excellent. Nice subtle leafy flavor and good texture.

Has anyone tried other items on the menu? I'm dying to try the vietnamese crepe, which I'm hoping is a banh xeo (nobody could tell me). They only serve it at night, but they didn't have it tonight. I'm also wondering how the soups are.

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  1. Do NOT try the waiter/sit down service here. They are extremely disorganized and overwhelmed. There was a single woman running both the cash register, serving tables, taking orders, etc. at 2pm on a Sunday. She offered us menus and then didn't even make eye contact for ten minutes afterwards.

    Several take out orders were placed while we were waiting and she delivered food to a few other tables, again, not acknowledging that we were waiting. Finally, we gave up after waiting so long, and stood IN LINE for five minutes behind a few other people to place our OWN take out order.

    We finally got to place our order (no acknowledgment that she had just ignored us for fifteen minutes) and waited some more for the food. Ended up getting our sandwiches a full 30 minutes after we'd first set foot inside. Meanwhile, the restaurant phone kept ringing off the hook (not to mention they have a high pitched, melodic, sing-song ringtone going on) and the door slammed every single time someone exited or entered.

    The sandwiches were quite good but I question why they even offer waiter service for such a small place. Next time I'll stick to takeout.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      I wasn't even aware they had table service. When I was there everyone got in line to order, then grabbed a seat if they were eating in. Funny, service was fairly organized last week, but the sandwich was under par. In this case I would chose food over service, so I'm glad that Kathryn and Tom both had good banh mi! (banh mis?). When I casually mentioned that the other sandwiches I had ordered previously had more of the other meats, one of the waitresses actually whisked it away and added more of the terrine.

      Has anyone tried anything besides the banh mi?

    2. I've been three times to St. Mark's Baogette, and I'm afraid I get the same "Baoguette"
      (banh mi) sandwich every time. Because the bread is so fresh it's usually still warm, it has exactly the right texture. The fillings are the ideal balance of hot/sour/salty/sweet and have plenty of texture. I agree with kathryn--you don't want to eat there, but since I go there by myself that wouldn't be any fun anyway. Instead, I waltz over to Cooper Union's lovely little park, just south of the main building on St. Mark's. There's almost always a free bench (unlike, say, St. Mark's Church courtyard). All that said, even though it's been open only a few weeks, at lunchtime the manager told me that it's "a madhouse." Try to go at off-hours. If you love banh mi, you certainly won't be sorry.

      1. My girlfriend and I went to Baogette St. Marks for lunch today. She got a banh mi and I got a banh mi ga (barbecued chicken sandwich). The ingredients they're using are very good, but we found the flavors unbalanced, because of a strong segregation of ingredients. For example, I ordered my banh mi ga "very spicy," and what I got was chicken with little or no spiciness and a vegetable mixture that was so hot it nearly blew the roof off my mouth. She got her sandwich "medium spicy," but also noted the problematic segregation of the ingredients. This makes their sandwiches inferior to Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, but it's a good inexpensive lunch option for the East Village, and I will definitely go back and try other items on the menu. But from now on, I'll order them "medium spicy," and open the sandwich to insert some Sriracha if necessary.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Pan

          I ordered my banh mi medium spicy and found it not spicy enough (and I love spicy food). I added some Sriracha to help balance it out. While eating I found it necessary to keep shifting around the pickled items as they tended towards the outside of the sandwich, and the crumbly pork tended towards the inside of the sandwich. Tasty, though.

          1. re: kathryn

            Yep. So you noted the same segregation of ingredients I mentioned. They should really work on that. Definitely good ingredients, though. By the way, it was not crowded at 1 PM today.

            1. re: Pan

              Not too much sweet stuff in the banh mi? I'm so happy to hear it.
              I ask for extra chilies on the side, as well as sriracha, so I can get the heat and the balance between the two just right.
              I'm guessing they'll iron out the kinks before too long, those crowds may keep them in business, but it's not the easiest circumstances for opening a new place.

              1. re: hungrycomposer

                I definitely didn't find it too sweet. I think the place will succeed, because they're providing a well-priced, quality product. I do hope they'll iron out the kinks, though.

                1. re: Pan

                  I got a roast chicken sandwich for takeout tonight, and I'm happy to report that they seem to have ironed out the kinks. The taste is better, and in fact, very good.

        2. Went on Sunday. The sit-down service wasn't bad. Had the banh-mi and the bun (vermicelli) chicken dish. The banh mi was tasty and well-spiced, and the bread was warm, crispy and outstanding. The pork was plentiful. My one gripe here is that they skimped on the other ingredients - they were garnishes, barely detectable. Otherwise, good sandwich.

          The Bun was standard, apart from the chicken, which was especially tasty and tender. I'd get this again for the chicken.

          My go-to choice for banh mi remains Ba Xuyen in Sunset Park, but this is a good, cheap option in the East Village.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Polecat

            Good point about the bread. I liked it and commented about it to my girlfriend while we were there.

          2. I went on Sunday as well and agree that the red pork was overly predominant in the traditional banh mi. I wanted more of the other meats to come through. We got the basic baoguette and the sloppy, both spicy, and while the baoguette was plenty spicy, I felt like they just totally forgot to make the sloppy spicy. The sloppy also suffered the same imbalance of ingredients -- tons of sloppy meat, hardly any cilantro and I'll be damned if there were more than 3 slivers of mango in the whole thing, none of which we could taste. We also had similar problems with table service described above. We actually ordered at the counter right away, seeing that the girl was swamped, but we still had to wait a good 20 min to get our food, and it came after several other people behind us in line got theirs. They need to work on the organization for sure. Overall, totally yummy sandwiches, bigger and more generous than Nicky's (slightly pricer too), but Saigon on Mott still reins supreme for value and taste.