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Mike's Banh Mi- Chinatown

Matt H Jul 27, 2009 11:23 AM

I tried out the new Banh Mi place in Chinatown today and it was excellent. I ordered the Pork Pate Sandwich with Cold cuts, extra spicy. The bread was fresh, cold cuts tasty and the toppings were also fresh, even though it could have been a bit more spicy. The highlight though was the Pork Pate, so delicious.

Each sandwich is $2.75 and they have been open for only 2 weeks in the ground floor of the Lofts Avana on the corner of Harrison and Beach. Give it a try!

  1. MC Slim JB Jul 27, 2009 11:37 AM

    Sounds good! Do you know if they do a sardine (ca moi) banh mi?


    4 Replies
    1. re: MC Slim JB
      tysonmcneely Jul 29, 2009 07:55 AM

      They only have cold cut. I went there yesterday. There cold cuts were good, the veggies were decent as was the bread. I found the bread a little to airy on the inside and a little too crusty (crumbly) on the outside. Not as good as Mei Sum I would say, and mine were a little light on the cilantro. Still worth checking out if you are fan of bahn mi. Through August, if you buy 2 you get a can of soda or water with it.

      1. re: MC Slim JB
        bostonmle Aug 31, 2009 09:40 AM

        they will start having (ca moi next week)

        1. re: bostonmle
          tysonmcneely Sep 10, 2009 08:53 AM

          Any confirmation on this? Sardine banh mi sounds interesting....

          1. re: tysonmcneely
            MC Slim JB Sep 10, 2009 08:58 AM

            The only other place I've seen sardine banh mi is at King Do Baguette in Savin Hill, where it's fantastic.


      2. g
        grant.cook Jul 27, 2009 11:53 AM

        Perhaps they'd throw some more 'heat' into it if you asked.. thx for the tip, though.. I love searching for a good bahn mi when I find my way downtown.

        1 Reply
        1. re: grant.cook
          jolkin Aug 11, 2009 08:54 PM

          I've been out of town for the last 6 months, but a few months before leaving I found 163 Vietnamese Sandwich, and made it there as much as I could. The tofu sandwich was very weak (unmarinated, barely sauced), but botht the pork and the beef ones were excellent. I THINK I liked the beef better, but can't remember. Very fresh crispy vegetables as well.

        2. z
          Zatan Aug 23, 2009 11:22 AM

          Went by here for my first time on Friday; I really liked it, it is a more substantial sandwich, both from the bread and the fillings, than my favorite at Mei Sum. Also, they use jalapenos instead of thai chilis so maybe that's why heat can be hit or miss. The ingredients were super fresh, and Mike was there to tell me that his family has been making banh mi in Boston fro 20 years, their last place was in Quincy, but before that they had the stand in the C-Mart right across from Pho Hua (I have no idea of that street name). I used to love that place and was sad when it went. He also told me they will focus only on banh mi for now (though they are also selling some small selection of Cantonese bakery items, not their own, and sodas).

          Worth a try for sure.

          1. MC Slim JB Aug 23, 2009 12:21 PM

            Thanks for this update! Looks like it's at 46 Beach Street near Harrison Ave.


            1. MC Slim JB Aug 24, 2009 01:13 PM

              FYI, they have cold cuts and beef now, both very, very good.


              4 Replies
              1. re: MC Slim JB
                galleygirl Aug 24, 2009 01:20 PM

                They also have a tofu, or something, faux chicken....NOT very good, more like a frozen patty cut in half and microwaved....

                ETA: My BAD,BAD, BAD; I had the wrong Banh Mi place...I was thinking of Banh Mi 163, or whatever the numerically named one next to Maxim Bakery is called...
                Never mind...

                1. re: galleygirl
                  MC Slim JB Aug 24, 2009 02:10 PM

                  I have not seen that tofu. On the other hand, I asked what they had, and they responded, "Just cold cuts." I said, "Really? Just cold cuts?" They thought about it, and then said, "And beef."

                  So maybe if I had said, "Really? Just cold cuts and beef?", they would have admitted to having the tofu, too.


                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    galleygirl Aug 24, 2009 02:14 PM

                    My BAD,BAD, BAD; I had the wrong Banh Mi place...I was thinking of Banh Mi 163, or whatever the numerically named one next to Maxim Bakery is called...
                    Never mind...

                    1. re: galleygirl
                      MC Slim JB Aug 24, 2009 02:44 PM

                      I didn't like the tofu mock-meats (chicken, ham, and duck, last I looked) at 163 Vietnamese Sandwich, either.


              2. rlove Aug 30, 2009 04:14 PM

                I did a back-to-back comparison of Mei Sum Bakery and Mike's Banh Mi today. At Mei Sum I ordered a dac biet (various coldcuts and pate). Mike's only does one banh mi, with coldcuts.

                Both were very good, but the Mei Sum was a clear winner. The meats were richer and the vegetables crisper on Mei Sum's banh mi. The overall sandwich was more balanced and round, likely due to fresher (and more) cilantro and hot peppers on the Mei Sum offering.

                But the real standout was the bread. While Mike's bread was good, Mei Sum's baguette was excellent. Fresh, chewy, and just enough crustiness.

                At $2.75 a sandwich, both are excellent deals, but since they are on the same street, Mei Sum will be my choice.

                8 Replies
                1. re: rlove
                  Zatan Aug 30, 2009 07:23 PM

                  Have to agree; Mike's was fine in every way, but the cold cuts (about equal in my mind), the pate (slight edge to Mei Sum, but not sure as I did not taste them side by side), and the BREAD (clear winner as you say) make the Mei Sum version superior in my mind. When I ate the Mike's one I thought "this is a really good sandwich" but every time I eat one from Mei Sum I just roll my eyes in pleasure....a superior sandwich.

                  1. re: Zatan
                    rlove Sep 8, 2009 01:52 PM

                    I enjoyed Mei Sum's bahn mi again this last weekend, and that bread really is incredible. Worth it almost on its own, before the delicious cold cuts, pates, and Vietnamese aromatics. Right balance of crunch and chew, and toasted just right.

                    1. re: Zatan
                      Matt H Sep 8, 2009 01:58 PM

                      I agree that Mei Sum still makes the better sandwich. Mikes is a very good sandwich though and is currently my second favorite in Chinatown after Mei Sum. I used to go to Lu's as my backup but now they would just be 3rd in my opinion.

                      The nice thing is that I live around the corner, so its easily to mix it up from time to time.

                    2. re: rlove
                      jlittlew Sep 9, 2009 10:13 AM

                      Today I did the Mike's vs. Mei Sum beef banh mi back-to-back. I'm going with Mike's. The bread is lighter, crunchier -- almost like French to Mei Sum's Italian. Mei Sum also had a sweeter sauce that kind of drowns out the other flavors. Mike's had veggies that came through a little clearer, crunchier and more veggie-tasting. Both were very good.

                      The Mei Sum tofu banh mi was good (I don't think Mike's does this) and the Mei Sum pork buns were great as well -- although it looks like Mike's also has pork buns.

                      So for me it'll be all about context: If I'm going with a vegetarian, or if I'm in one of my guilt-ridden no-meat phases, I'm headed to Mei Sum. If I'm after a beef, I'm headed to Mike's. Pretty great job at both places, and very nice people at both spots as well.

                      1. re: jlittlew
                        MC Slim JB Sep 9, 2009 11:14 AM

                        It's a good problem to have, with two really good bann mi places within a couple of blocks of each other. Mike's currently only has two options, beef and cold cuts, while Mei Sum's tofu might be the best of its kind around. I think both have better banh mi all around than the nearby competitors Lu's and 163, but to be fair, even an average banh mi at $2.75 is still a great lunch deal. I'd be happy to see both of them expand their range of options just a little bit.


                        1. re: MC Slim JB
                          heWho Sep 11, 2009 02:36 PM

                          Hey now! While I agree that Mei Sum's is superior to Lu's (have not tried Mike's as I'm living in NYC now), Lu's meatball banh mi may be the best in the business, especially if you're looking for a more filling sandwich.

                          Either way, Boston's banh mi options are fantastic and incredibly cheap. You certainly can't find banh mi that cheap in New York, they generally start at $5

                          1. re: heWho
                            MC Slim JB Sep 11, 2009 03:05 PM

                            I really like the pork meatballs at Lu's, too, but the inferior bread is a showstopper for me. To the rescue: King Do, which has 15 banh mi options, including those meatballs in a similar kind of tomato sauce, and a great roll.


                        2. re: jlittlew
                          galleygirl Sep 9, 2009 11:23 AM

                          Repeat beef customers at Mei Sum know to ask for them to leave off the sweet sauce.. ;)

                      2. ScubaSteve Sep 9, 2009 11:26 AM

                        The Kid and i got two Combo extra spicy Banh Mis this past saturday. even though we didn't get to them until we got home we really liked them a lot. our only issue being that some of the veggies were cut too thick. we'll be back for sure.

                        1. MeffaBabe Sep 11, 2009 07:27 AM

                          I have tried every Banh Mi place in Chinatown... the place on Washington St, the Mei Sum, Lu's and Mikes and 163 and I have to say that I love the spicy beef at the 163 on Harrison Ave. I think the beef has the best flavor. They all seem to have the exact same bread, I think it's just a matter of how long they put it in the oven for... at 163 the rolls are kept in the warming oven to keep them crisp. I will keep trying since it is my quest to find perfection! LOL

                          15 Replies
                          1. re: MeffaBabe
                            StriperGuy Sep 11, 2009 08:54 AM

                            Where on Harrison is this place?

                            1. re: StriperGuy
                              MC Slim JB Sep 11, 2009 08:59 AM

                              66 Harrison, right near Beach.


                              1. re: MC Slim JB
                                MeffaBabe Sep 11, 2009 09:48 AM

                                Next door to the bakery on the corner and the bank... I always get the spicy beef. They don't use jalepanos so it is really spicy - eating one right now!

                                1. re: MeffaBabe
                                  nsenada Sep 11, 2009 10:38 AM

                                  I had one a couple days ago, and it's my favorite spot, too. I also like their fried spring rolls. I will have to try Mike's though.

                                  1. re: MeffaBabe
                                    jgg13 Sep 11, 2009 11:31 AM

                                    Do they use thai chiles?

                                    1. re: jgg13
                                      StriperGuy Sep 11, 2009 11:50 AM

                                      Thai chillies are key which is why I always like Mei Sum's chili addition the best. Occasionally at Pho Viet (S88 Food court) I will ask for some jalapenos to add, but it ain't the same.

                                      1. re: StriperGuy
                                        jgg13 Sep 11, 2009 11:55 AM

                                        Good to know. I've been meaning to check out the banh mi places and knew that some used thai vs jalapeno (and wanted the former), so now I know which is which :)

                              2. re: MeffaBabe
                                Zatan Sep 11, 2009 10:45 AM

                                Guess I will have to try it again. I'm not sure they all get the same bread, last time I had one from 163 and from Mei Sum the same day, and the bread at 163 was definitely bigger, softer, and heavier than the Mei Sum, which was light and crisp. Maybe they've improved. I also could not taste the pate (one of my favorite parts of this sandwich -- I almost always get the cold cut version). In any case, worth another try, competition in the banh mi circle is becoming fierce. If I could handle it I'd do a taste off of every place in town all at once!

                                1. re: Zatan
                                  MC Slim JB Sep 11, 2009 10:49 AM

                                  Pure speculation on my part, but I would also guess that the Chinatown banh mi joints get their rolls from different bakeries. Doesn't Mei Sum make their own?


                                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                                    rlove Sep 11, 2009 10:56 AM

                                    Yes, I'd imagine they pull from different bakeries. Mike's and Mei Sum certainly are different bread--the perfection of Mei Sum's bread cannot alone derive from how fresh it is, or how they toast it.

                                    And, yes, Mei Sum makes their own bread--I asked last time I was in. They are, after all, a bakery.

                                    1. re: rlove
                                      MC Slim JB Sep 11, 2009 10:59 AM

                                      It's one of the reasons I love the banh mi at King Do Baguette, another bakery: superior baguette. (And the fact that they have sardines, of course.)


                                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                                        Zatan Sep 11, 2009 11:28 AM

                                        How are the sardines prepared for that sandwich, and what are the other ingredients?

                                        1. re: Zatan
                                          MC Slim JB Sep 11, 2009 01:35 PM

                                          The King Do ca moi banh mi features two comparatively large (like, 4" long filets), plump sardines laid end-to-end. I don't know if they come from a can or what. Accompaniments are typical: cucumber spear, pickled shredded daikon, pickled shredded carrots, fresh cilantro, a squirt of a nuoc cham-type of fish-sauce-based condiment, fresh sliced jalapeños.


                                        2. re: MC Slim JB
                                          rlove Sep 11, 2009 11:42 AM

                                          Trying the sardine banh mi (cá moi?) at King Do Baguette is at the top of my food list, thanks to your recommendation, MC Slim.

                                        3. re: rlove
                                          Zatan Sep 16, 2009 05:35 PM

                                          I dig the bread at Mei Sum too, but today I asked about it whern there; thje usual lady who makes the sandwiches was not there, so one of the other regular staff made them for me. When I asked if they made the bread she said "no, but this bread is much better than the ones used at the other banh mi places, don't you think?". She also told me they make everything else there in-house. Wonder if she's been reading Chowhound, haha.

                                  2. SaraASR Sep 11, 2009 11:51 AM

                                    Anyone know what time Mike's or Mei Sum are open until?

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: SaraASR
                                      Matt H Sep 11, 2009 12:14 PM

                                      Mei Sum until 7pm
                                      Mikes until 5:30

                                      Mei Sum seems to run out if you go too late though, whenever I grab one for dinner I usually have to get there by 5-5:30 or else I go over to Lu's.

                                      1. re: Matt H
                                        SaraASR Sep 17, 2009 06:33 AM

                                        Thanks Matt!

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