Vietnamese banh mi might just be the best sandwich. Fortunately, in Austin, you’re never more than a baguette’s throw - or a quick drive - away from a great one. Here are a few of our favorites that you can get right now. And please, don’t throw baguettes.
Long-time fans of banh mi in Austin might remember Ng BMT, one of our favorite sandwich shops in the city. They bounced around a few locations, and eventually closed back in 2016 for a few years before reopening as NG Cafe in North Austin, near Parmer and I-35. We visited recently and can happily say that it lives up to our fondest memories, transporting us to what we currently refer to as “the Before Times.” The sandwiches are smaller and more compact, with a generous layer of pate and house-made mayo. But the bread really brings it all together - a toasted baguette with a crispy exterior and soft center. We like to get the classic here, with Asian ham and pork head cheese, or the shredded pork skin version.
Saigon Le Vendeur
Saigon Le Vendeur sells banh mi, vermicelli bowls, and other daily specials out of a converted shipping container near 7th and Pedernales. Their grilled pork is cut fairly thick, so each piece is crispy on the outside with a juicy interior. We usually go with the grilled pork or the pork patty banh mi here, but you can also keep it classic with the cold-cut and pate version. They also opened up a sister restaurant called Le Bleu a few years back (near 183 and Burnet) and from our brief experience, the banh mi at the two were nearly identical - a big plus when there’s not much to improve on.
Baguette House has been serving quality banh mi in Austin’s Chinatown for years. They have a variety of traditional options, from the cold-cut classic - served with house-made mayonnaise and pickled vegetables, pate, cilantro, and jalapeño - to the super-savory grilled pork. We can’t really pick a favorite here, but at less than $5 each, you can probably grab a few and save one for later. And they even pack the fillings in a separate bag, so it’s just as good the next day (or a midnight snack, in our case).
The banh mi at Pho Please might be our winner in the bargain category, based on size alone - they’re big enough to fill us up for a couple of meals. We could eat their house-made mayo on just about anything, but it’s especially good on the lemongrass beef or the pork belly banh mi. However, tofu, shrimp, and chicken are also available. It’s located in the South Shore District, and as the name suggests, they also make a pretty good bowl of pho.
Lily’s Sandwich in Austin’s Chinatown has been around for a long time, and while they do many noodle and soup dishes, it’s not called Lily’s Soups for a reason. We like to get the Banh Mi Dac Biet here - aka the Lily Gourmet sandwich - which has a bunch of different cold cuts, including head cheese, roast pork, ham, and pate. The baguette is crisp on the outside and tender in the middle, but still slightly dense. At around $5, it’s one of the more filling banh mi we’ve had. If you order one to go, they’ll offer to pack the vegetables separately so the sandwich doesn’t get soggy.
When we saw a duck confit banh mi - one of the recommended options on Heo Eatery’s banh mi menu - we were...skeptical. We’ve tried most of the classic fillings - from cold-cuts and pate to grilled pork, shrimp, and tofu - but this was a first to us. The bread is light, fluffy, and flaky - #breadgoals, if you will - adding a nice textural counterpoint to the incredibly tender duck housed inside. And to round out the meal, it’s served with cottage fries, which are basically flat tater tots about the size of a quarter, but a lot more fun to eat.
Van’s is a food truck in North Loop that specializes in “flame-grilled meats,” which means that everything here comes with a bit of char, in the best kind of way. They also bake their own bread daily and cook the meats to-order, so the sandwiches come out piping hot. They don’t have a parking lot, so finding a spot can be a little tricky around here, but once you settle in at one of the many picnic tables out front with your sandwich, you’ll realize it was worth a little walk. We usually go with the grilled pork banh mi here, but we also really like their beef and chicken sandwiches.