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Best Banh-mi in Houston?

s
smirkrevenge Oct 18, 2005 10:09 AM

So...with the plethora of Vietnamese restaurants/shops in Houston to choose from, which one has the best banh-mi? It's hard to sift through the good/bad...

  1. g
    golyadkin Mar 24, 2013 11:43 AM

    I know this is a very old question, but it still shows up on the first page of results on Google for "banh mi Houston" so I thought an update would be helpful.

    CafeTH in East Downtown is my personal favorite, and they recently won the 2012 award for Best Vietnamese from the Houston Press. The chargrilled pork is my personal favorite, but so far all of them that I have tried have been outstanding. Their bread is better than anywhere else I've tried. The sandwiches run between $3.50 and $5, but there is a special super one you can get for $15.

    Lee's Sandwiches on Bellaire has very good banh mi, despite what some other comments here say. I first started eating there late 2012, and it's always been great. It could be that they have improved since the previous replies. The pickled carrot and daikon mix they have is second to none, and is available on its own for next to nothing.

    Nam Noodles and More in Rice Village also has fantastic banh mi. Their lemongrass steak one in particular is very, very good.

    3 Replies
    1. re: golyadkin
      b
      brucesw Mar 25, 2013 07:37 AM

      This thread was over on the Texas board and got moved over here. Houston got a separate board several years ago and there are still some Houston threads over there, but I'm sure there have been more recent discussions of banh mi here, if you want to search for them.

      But you bring up some interesting points. I used to go to Thiem Hung before the change of ownership and loved the banh mi but have never been since the change. What's special about the bread? I'm pretty picky about that.

      Don't think I've ever heard of Nam but it sounds good.

      1. re: brucesw
        g
        golyadkin Mar 29, 2013 05:11 PM

        It's really nice with the new owner. He's a fantastic guy, who runs the front of house himself. The banh mi is great for two reasons:
        1. the pork that I get is delicious. The marinade they use is incredible. It's perfectly sweet, and never has very much fat on it (I know some people like the fat, but with a sandwich, I prefer just meat).
        2. The bread is soft. There is a thin, crisp crust to it, but it's very soft throughout. And it's not tough. I've had too many banh mi (banh mis? banhs mi?) ruined by being on a really tough loaf that I have to fight to bite through. Their bread has just enough crisp to give texture, but is soft enough to bite through without issue.

        One thing I should add about Nam: it's a tad pricey. $7+ for a sandwich, although it does come, if I remember correctly, a side and a drink.

        1. re: golyadkin
          b
          brucesw Mar 30, 2013 02:32 AM

          I will have to try to get down to TH sometime - sounds good. A lot of places use a French style baguette which is crustier and chewier than a Vietnamese style baguette, also can be a lot bulkier so there's a lot more bread vs. fillings. Not a bad sandwich but I prefer the lighter Viet style and that sounds like maybe what TH is using. It's one of the reasons I like Tan Ba Le on Beechnut but their fillings sometimes aren't that good, particularly the pork.

    2. d
      dcembrtulip Sep 10, 2006 12:17 AM

      Banh Mi Hoang is located in the same building as Le Bec Fin and the jewelry store off of Milam and McGowen. It looks like a mostly deserted building but it's truly a hole-in-the-wall eatery. The sandwiches are warm and ready to eat when you order. You can get the basic banh mi sandwich for $1.50. I do agree with the comment above: the bread is the key. Stale bread spoils the sandwich. Also, they take cash only.

      1. Sahel578 Aug 21, 2006 05:31 PM

        I'm going to agree with Mikeflan about Cali Sandwich. The worst, I think, is at Lee's Sandwich on Bellaire.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sahel578
          b
          brucesw Sep 8, 2006 11:23 PM

          Lee's is a chain out of San Jose, CA. I couldn't believe the size of that place (from the outside) when I first saw it. It's at Boone and Bellaire but presumably not the one shaotime referred to above.

          http://www.leesandwiches.com/default.cfm

        2. m
          Mikeflan Aug 18, 2006 12:38 PM

          I'm particularly fond of Cali Sandwich Shop close to Elgin and Travis, which in a roundabout sort of way is owned by the owner of the original Givral sandwich shop (back when Givral was a hole). Cheap as they all are, and seems to have a lot more flavor than most. I normally go for the Cali Special (charbroiled/seasoned pork) with a fried egg on top for a whopping $2.50. Their Mango smoothie is great as well for $2.00.

          FWIW: I personally wouldn't be caught dead in the new upscale Girval these days... feels vaguely like it should be in an airport somewhere (though not Houston... that would be too cool for IAH).

          1. s
            shaotime Aug 11, 2006 08:40 PM

            I can never remember the name of the restaurant, but it's on the corner of Bellaire and Boone - across Boone from the Hong Kong shopping center, next to the donut shop and Domino's. They use baguettes instead of the usual "submarine" rolls and it makes all the difference. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside... best thing ever. I could eat their bread by itself!

            1. t
              Timmy Chan Oct 19, 2005 01:16 PM

              In addition to the Midtown places, here's one for you on the west side of town. It's near my office, so I stop by on occasion for a cheap, quick meal.

              It's called Them Hung, in the Asian grocery store shopping center at Harwin and Gessner. The place is near the end of the shopping center next to Gessner. It's a tiny, one-woman shop, but I love the sandwiches. Her large sandwich is $2.50. I usually get a large "special combination" and a chicken (shredded chicken). It leaves me well satisfied for $5.00.

              1. m
                MidtownCoog Oct 19, 2005 01:02 PM

                I have tried them all in Midtown, and think they are pretty good.

                It's all about the bread.

                Stale bread is the deal breaker.

                1. t
                  Tex Nosh Oct 18, 2005 10:17 PM

                  I can't seem to pick up on the subtleties between banh mi at the various places. Perhaps that means that most of them are very good.

                  By the Original Givrals, I think Scar means the place that's in a Vietnamese shopping center that has a lot of empty stores. I agree that's good. But I also like the Givral's on Milam. That gets a busy crowd of non-Asians, which makes me nervous that they're making the food less authentic, but I've found it's fine and less depressing than the one in the old shopping center. However the Milam Givral's makes only so-so cafe sua da (iced coffee w/ sweetened condensed milk).

                  1. j
                    Jim Washburn Oct 18, 2005 03:39 PM

                    I like the place near the intersection of Pease and St. Emmanuel, but I can't remember the name of it. They have delicious Vietnamese beef stew, also.

                    Jim

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Jim Washburn
                      t
                      Tex Nosh Oct 18, 2005 10:12 PM

                      The name is Thiem Hung Sandwich, 2108 Pease at Saint Emanuel. The food is very good, the place is simple, the staff (owners?) extremely nice.

                      Their baked goods don't list any preservatives, unliked the packaged Vietnamese baked goods at most other places downtown.

                      As for the banh mi, it's fine. I usually get the roast pork wonton noodle soup, I think that's a number 10.

                      The place is inexpensive. They never charge me for hot tea and when the bill is $5.40 they round it down to $5 when I pay.

                      So what's not to like.

                    2. j
                      John Scar Oct 18, 2005 11:12 AM

                      The best IMO is at Miss Saigon but it runs $5-6. Its a nice little place in the Village.
                      After that, the original Givrals is damn good at $2.

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