Arguably the most popular Vietnamese culinary import since pho, the banh mi is vying for its proper place in the pantheon of great sandwiches. The city’s finest specimens are mostly concentrated on the east side of town, but thanks to an army of roaming gourmet food trucks, the Westside can now get its fill too.
Banh Mi Che & Cali
135 S San Gabriel Boulevard
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Banh Mi Che & Cali’s ongoing “buy two get one free” deal makes an already economical sandwich even more so. The top three to taste are the lemongrass-infused grilled pork (banh mi thit nuong), the cold cut and pate combo (banh mi dac biet), and the savory meatballs (banh mi xiu mai). All sandwiches are served on the shop’s distinctly buttery baguette.
My Dung Sandwich Shop
314 Ord Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
The best approximation of a Saigon baguette can be found in the heart of Chinatown at Bánh Mì My Dung. The cramped little mom and pop shop churns out a crusty specimen that’s light on fluff. The fillings aren’t as memorable as the vehicle, but it’s hard to mind when the bread is this good.
Banh Mi My Tho
304 W Valley Boulevard
Alhambra, CA 91803
An unassuming deli in the midst of an Alhambra strip mall, the ambience here might be next to nil but it certainly claims a legion of devoted fans. Here, the flavors are bold and crave-worthy, especially on their banh mi sandwiches like the fried egg sandwich (banh mi trung op la) which is the perfect early morning pick-me-up.
8702 Valley Boulevard
Rosemead, CA 91770-1712
The tidy and orderly Mr. Baguette is the perfect place for banh mi newbies. With a picture menu that is accompanied by English text and an ambiance that is spiffy, the food here is one of the best in town. Make sure to try the pork banh mi for something special.
Saigon’s Bakery & Sandwiches
718 East Valley Boulevard
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Few delis manage to achieve the perfect ratio of sandwich filling to bread, but Saigon’s Bakery & Sandwiches makes a noble effort. The baguettes are baked in-house throughout the day and the meats and pates are seasoned with care. The banh mi bi (shredded pork and pork skin) is especially noteworthy.
1801 W Sunset Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90026
This Echo Park restaurant churns out a Mexican-Vietnamese banh mi that combines the best of both cuisines. The filling is comprised of carnitas laced with lemongras, along with traditional pickled daikon and carrots, jalapenos, and cilantro. The creation might seem strange at first, but one bite and you’ll be sold.
Cathy Chaplin is a Los Angeles-based food writer and photographer. Her widely-read blog Gastronomy has been featured in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Saveur.com. Ms. Danh’s food writings have appeared in numerous publications including National Geographic, Saveur, and Time Out Vietnam.