THE BANH MI ROUNDUP began as a search for the paragon of this humble Vietnamese street food, but there were naturally versions that stretched the definition without disqualifying themselves.
After trying 26 banh mi that ran from $2.25 to $10, I decided to abandon the complicated balancing act of cost, flavor, and traditionalism, and simply rank them according to flavor. The best in the city, and hardly a surprise: SE Division's Double Dragon. Departure chef Gregory Gourdet—a flavor prodigy in his own right—sums up Double Dragon's offerings well, saying "Rob's [Walls, chef/owner] banh mi really push flavor and texture more than your average 82nd Avenue sando."
If you're looking for a strict interpretation of the decidedly minimalist banh mi, it is best exemplified by @Pho.com, Best Baguette, and Lela's Bistro. @Pho.com may be a bit generously portioned compared to its peers, but it is a truly delicious and satisfying sandwich. The others are the light, torpedo-like, clean-eating versions that first caught my attention over a decade ago, which I'd been trying to find again ever since.
- Chart by Chris Onstad