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Insomnia Cafe in Kakaako....best banh mi! (also a Nikki Cafe shout out)

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hey all - just a little tip for lunch next time you're in kakaako....around the corner from the Whole Ox on Auahi St is a little coffee/lunch spot thats been there for years, run by the sweetest Vietnamese couple (they crack me up!). Their lemongrass chicken "french sandwich" is the best bahn mi i've had in town, and currently my favorite sandwich on this island. The chicken is wonderfully seasoned, tender chunks of chicken thigh, served with thicker cut do chua (carrot/daikon pickles), few slices tomato and the perfect amount of cilantro...a little mayo on the requisite crunchy french roll and you've got yourself a perfectly balanced flavorful bahn mi. i like to add a little of the chili garlic paste they have behind the counter....for 6 bucks, cant beat the flavor, and they usually throw in a piece of fruit. I eat one a week and it just doesnt get old. If its a busy day in there you may have to wait a few (everything is made fresh)...I cant vouch for other things on their menu bc i'm obsessed with the sanwich, but Yelpers also seem to enjoy their mongolian beef, boneless pork chops, lemongrass chicken plate, pho, etc....If you feel like going to whole ox for lunch with some coworkers, one of you should wander around the corner and grab this sandwich to compare to the whole ox offerings (which i enjoy): i bet this bahn mi wins.

i also enjoy the bahn mi at Nikki Cafe off Kapahulu...homemade char siu on their signature sammy, but their pork meatball bahn mi is what really does it for me. they use a thinner cut of do chua at nikki's, and i that's the one area that these sandwiches can improve on, IMO...i dont get as much pickle flavor as i'd like. Additionally, their lemon beef and jackfruit salads are fantastic, though will require a few people to knock out...also their jicama and summer rolls are quite nice. this place is run by a couple super sweet sisters, always swell to interact with them.

anyone else have any suggestions for excellent bahn mi? i should say, i never cease to be totally underwhelmed by the bahn mi at every Ba Le i visit. they're do chua is too sweet for me, and the sandwiches tend to be on the skimpy side with average tasting ingredients. that being said, i know theres several of them on island and perhaps some are better than others. i have, however, had a couple pretty good ones at BaLe's La Tour cafe on Nimitz (pork belly, mmmmmm)

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  1. Oh my...here I am stuck on Kauai, and loving me some bahn mi.

    1. i like the bbq pork bahn mi at mixed plate on dillingham by the river. i love it, actually, but i have not had much to compare it to.

      1 Reply
      1. re: indelibledotink

        know exactly the place...gonna check it thx

      2. I love a good banh mi as well. Like you, whenever I try a banh mi here, I am usually underwhelmed. Will make sure to give this one a try. Right now, my favorite for banh mi is at the Pig & the Lady, but it is priced higher than any other banh mi I have ever had. Also, when they were experimenting with the bread, sometimes it was too hard. However, they do have interesting offerings that are different than anywhere else. The other problem is I can't get it whenever I want and since they change offerings every week, my favorites may not be on the menu.

        2 Replies
        1. re: killersmile

          last time i was at the farmers market in town i saw P&L serving several kinds of bahn mi....on baguettes. I passed....i'm sure its still delicious, buy you gotta have the real deal bread.

          1. re: fatstern

            We tried the spicy meatball bahn mi at the Tuesday night KCC farmer's market. I can't recall the bread - I think it was on a baguette. It was really delicious!! It was a little more pricey (about $10). I can't vouch for its authenticity but my mouth still waters just thinking about how good it was!