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COVER STORY

Banh voyage

A cruise through Colonialtown in search of Orlando’s best banh mi

Photo: Shan Stumpf, License: N/A

Shan Stumpf


Banh Mi Dac Biet (“Anh Hong special”)
Anh Hong
1124 E. Colonial Drive
407-999-2656
score: 3.3
Anh Hong’s take on the standard banh mi was praised for using real meat (ham and “savory sliced pork”), rather than processed cold cuts (“not meat roll”). Some tasters felt the sandwich was too salty and lacked acid or the “sweet-sour component.” Liberal use of butter and “whole peppercorns!” were appreciated.

Banh Mi Thit Nguoi (“combination cold cuts”)
Pho 88
730 N. Mills Ave.
407-897-3488
score: 3.0
Is “super head cheesy” a compliment or an insult? In BanhMiLand, it’s a compliment. “Good mixed meat flavor”; “nice aroma, love the head cheese”; “slightly greasy but tasty” – these were the approving comments of a crowd primed and ready for Asian charcuterie. Opinions of the vegetable element ranged from “very fresh tasting” to “just filler for crunch.”

Banh Mi Doi (lemongrass pork)
Ba Le
1229 N. Mills Ave.
407-898-8011
score: 2.9
Most of us were surprised when it was revealed that this lemongrass pork sandwich didn’t rate more highly, as Ba Le’s reputation is good among Orlando’s banh mi fanciers. It may have been just bad luck, but this specimen featured “soggy,” “pale” bread and vegetables with ”no real flavor.” The “very lemony,” “sweet and tangy” meat was “refreshing,” however, and “huge black peppercorns” were a “flavorful” plus.

Banh Mi Cha Ca (fried fish paste)
Banh Mi Nha Trang
1216 E. Colonial Drive
407-346-4549
score: 2.7
“Spicy, fishy, not much else” – the sole comment of one taster summed up everyone’s opinion of new contender Banh Mi Nha Trang’s fried fish-paste sub. One man’s too much, ugh is another’s too much, awesome!, though. A few appreciated the strong chili paste, scallion and seafood combo; others thought it “would benefit from a more toasty roll,” “more acid” or “more cilantro” to cut the “fishy flavor,” or simply “more veg.”

Banh Mi Saigon (house combination)
New Saigon Subs
1242 E. Colonial Drive
407-898-7770
score: 2.6
“Surprisingly generic taste,” “underwhelming” and “nothing special”: New Saigon Subs’ basic banh mi elicited a big fat “meh” from the lot of us. “Wouldn’t pull my car over to the side of the road to buy” this, said one taster, while several others noted the “overwhelming” presence of Maggi sauce. “Nothing in this sandwich is a player except the sauce,” said another – and since that sauce came out of a bottle, that’s not an advantage. Still, one taster noted, it was “buttery and rich with mayo and liver pâté.”

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