It seems like NYC's latest ethnic food craze is for Bahn Mi, the cheap Vietnamese baguette sandwich. Five years ago everyone seemed excited about Pho when it comes to Vietnamese or they had just discovered Ethiopian food or something. Once these sandwiches were only for Vietnamese immigrants and punks with no money who knew a spot in Chinatown. Now Bahn Mi places are popping up all over (there are two new ones on St. Marks alone) and I'm sure prices for them are going up and quality is falling off.
Chris' boy Eddy took us to what I'm sure is one of the best, most authentic places in the city, surprisingly close to the epicenter of the Broadway fashion and retail maelstrom in which he works. Saigon Bahn Mi had the air of a seasoned local legend that had not lost it's magic. Aside from the sandwhiches they offered a deli case full of intriguing take-out items and snacks that must look like home to a Vietnamese immigrant.
We went for the #1 classic Bahn Mi with grilled, five-spice scented sweet pork, thick slices of bologna-like Vietnamese mystery meat, picked vegetables, fresh cilantro and slices of cucumber and (optional) raw chili peppers. At 4 something they were not as cheap as the skimpy, virtually free versions we used to get in Chinatown Philly, but they were beefy and still well priced considering the inflation in the surrounding neighborhood.
The baguette was fresh and crusty, the vegetables redolent of fish sauce and oily rock sugar, the pork was caramelized and moist, the raw chili stung when you bit into one. A perfect sandwhich.