There are lots of delicious sandwiches on Northern Virginia Magazine’s latest Cheap Eats list, but some are in a category of their own: banh mi. This Vietnamese specialty is packed with flavor. Here’s where you can find our favorite banh mi, for bargain prices.
By Dawn Klavon, Alyssa Langer, and Alice Levitt
Banh Mi DC
Banh Mi combination | $6.95
Whether you’re already a banh mi fanatic or new to the world of banh mi, you won’t be disappointed by this family-owned Vietnamese sandwich shop. The menu is huge, so rest assured, there is a sandwich for everyone.
The most popular pick is the “combination.” At just $6.95, this foot-long sandwich consists of cucumber, pickled radish, hot pepper, cilantro, a variety of meat, and pâté, all stuffed into a crisp, house-made baguette. You also can’t go wrong with the barbecue pork sandwich ($6.75); the sweet-savory meat alone is worth the visit. The sandwiches offer generous portions of meat and veggies.
While you wait for your sandwich, shop around the store for plenty of delicious snacks to explore. 3103 Graham Rd., Falls Church — Langer
Le Bledo Eatery
Dac Biet | $7
A fantastic array of Vietnamese snacks may be an expected luxury in Falls Church’s Eden Center, but for those who can’t make it to the center of it all, there is this Springfield strip mall find.
The bakery portion of the business earns top billing with crisp, airy baguettes that are baked fresh every day. For diners, that day begins at 8 a.m. with breakfast banh mi filled with eggs, cheese, and a selection of meats. But the kitchen really gets rolling at lunchtime, when diners put in their orders for sandwiches filled with a delightful diversity of meats and vegetables. Six of those retail for $7 or less.
Among these, we recommend the dac biet, a standard for a reason thanks to its collection of meats that includes a swipe of pâté and layers of headcheese, ham, and pork roll. It’s a lot of flesh, but the sweet pickled carrots and daikon, along with cilantro and jalapeños, assure that every bite tastes bright and fresh. 6416 Brandon Ave., Springfield — Levitt
Banh mi chicken | $7.99
Fresh ingredients make this chicken banh mi go to the head of the class. The tiny enclave serves (as the name would imply) ample pho options, but don’t overlook the tasty Vietnamese sandwich samplings as well.
The grilled dark meat chicken is marinated in a life-giving lemongrass sauce that is the X factor for this sandwich. It’s cradled in a warm baguette, and the restaurant’s signature mayonnaise and pâté only enhance the overall experience. Fresh shredded pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber, jalapeño, and tomatoes provide bonus crunch, with a generous finishing touch of cilantro. This impressive meal satisfies hungry diners’ appetites and will only run you $7.99.
Pho-nomenal, with an attentive staff, is located in a prime location at One Loudoun. It fills up with guests ordering authentic Vietnamese fare for a fair price. 20447 Exchange St., Ashburn — Klavon
Duck banh mi | $6.50
This boba shop specializes in fun Asian frozen desserts. From Filipino halo-halo crowned with suitably purple ube ice cream, to Korean green tea bing su, and creamy avocado purée dotted with ice and jellies, there’s a world of flavors bound to entice a sweet tooth. But while you’re dreaming of dessert, don’t sleep on the meals at this cheerful storefront.
Savory offerings are inconsistent, so be ready to be surprised. But there is always banh mi. As soon as you order, a staffer toasts the flaky roll so that it’s warm and just a bit crusty. The secret to one of the best Vietnamese sammies in NoVA, though, is in the filling. Namely, cross your fingers (or call ahead) for duck. The salty, pleasantly greasy meat blooms with a satisfying burst of umami that’s only enhanced by the fresh, crunchy vegetables within, all for $6.50. 24555 Dulles Landing Dr., Dulles — Levitt
Caphe Banh Mi
Banh Mi Thit Nuong | $9.50
Banh mi fans will applaud the outstanding Vietnamese sandwiches created at friendly Caphe Banh Mi in Old Town Alexandria. Our favorite is the banh mi thit nuong (Vietnamese sandwich with grilled pork), which packs a punch of fresh flavor. The tender grilled pork shoulder displays a delicious char, adding even more reasons to love it. Wrapped in a crispy, just-baked 8-inch baguette, the tasty sandwich includes house garlic mayo, pickled daikon, carrot, cucumber, and generous sprigs of cilantro. We included the spicy jalapeños brought on the side — it was a home run.
Caphe Banh Mi offers a tempting menu of inviting pho soups, vermicelli buns, and banh mi — all of which are clearly popular with locals dining in and ordering takeout. The price is right on these hot-off-the-grill sandwiches, which win high marks in both taste and affordability. 407 Cameron St., Alexandria — Klavon
This story originally ran in our January issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.