There’s a special spot in sandwich heaven reserved for Vietnamese bánh mì. Between the crunch of fresh baguettes, the acidity of pickled carrots and daikon, and the richness of paté and mayo, even the most average versions are still pretty great. But why settle for average when LA has so many fantastic options? From classic versions layered with cold cuts to creative sandwiches filled with fried shrimp, these are the best bánh mì in the city.
From the tender baguette to the juicy BBQ pork, the #5 bánh mì from Banh Mi & Che Cali in Rosemead is the total package. An extra thick slab of pork is charred along the edges and chopped, then tucked in a fresh-from-the oven french loaf is smothered in mayo, vegetables, and herbs. All together, you get a bánh mì experience with a good balance of crunchy and soft textures that makes a solid case for sandwiches as one of life's simplest pleasures. And if you take advantage of the “buy two get one free” deal, you can have a couple for lunch and save the third for dinner (or, you know, just have the third for second lunch).
It’s hard for us to even say “Cahuenga” without picking up a bánh mì from Banh Oui in Hollywood. These are not the traditional iterations you’ll find at places like My Dung or Saigon’s Sandwich. The insides of the baguettes here are always fluffy and soft with a crunchy exterior. Chicken liver oozes out of the sides at the gentlest touch. But otherwise, the fillings aren’t typical: they’ve got chicken katsu, fried rock shrimp, sous vide duck breast, and loads of vegetarian options. We gravitate towards the katsu, balanced out with plenty of herbs and crunchy pickled vegetables. Banh Oui is the absolute best quick sandwich option in Hollywood.
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photo credit: Matt Gendal
Banh Mi My Tho
Being the king ain’t easy. Banh Mi My Tho might have started out as a low-key strip mall deli slash convenience store, but over the years it’s developed a reputation as the most popular bánh mì mini-chain in LA County, one that has expanded to three locations across the SGV. But that expansion has come at a cost: consistency. Though the crunchy fresh vegetables, generous mayo and paté, and meaty fillings never let us down, we can’t say the same about the bread, which at times ranges from a little tough to downright mouth-scraping. The best bet is to head to the original location in Alhambra earlier in the day (they close at 4pm anyway) and get the #2 special sandwich with an added fried egg. On a good day it’s still the best banh mi you’ll find north of Orange County.
Editor’s note: Saigon Sandwich & Bakery is temporarily closed.
Walking into Saigon Sandwich can be a little overwhelming if you don’t speak Vietnamese. The picture menu above the counter doesn’t entirely explain what’s in the various sandwich options, and it’s unclear whether you should get a small (at around $4 it seems like it might be very small) or a large. We’ll make it easy for you: get the Saigon special, and you definitely only need a small. These are among the best bánh mì we’ve had in the LA area, with super crunchy bread, a good ratio of fillings, and just the right amount of pate and spice.
It’s surprisingly hard to find a good bánh mì in LA proper, which is why a trip to My Dung feels like hitting the jackpot. Half-market stall, half-Vietnamese restaurant, we head to this small Chinatown shop whenever the need for a baguette smeared thick with paté strikes. Which, to be honest, is quite often. There are eight versions of the sandwich here, ranging from crispy pork belly to ones filled with soy sauce-soaked tofu. They’re usually a little misshapen but obviously made with care, and for $5 a pop, one of the best deals in town.
Glendale Pho Co. is one of our go-to pho spots in northeast LA, but if you come to this tiny shop on S. Glendale Ave. without also getting a bánh mì thit xao, you’ve missing out. While the baguette and ratio of toppings (house mayo, cilantro, tangy carrots and daikon, cucumber, and jalapeños) are all solid, what makes Glendale Pho’s version special is the meat itself. You can technically choose your protein—beef, chicken, pork, or tofu—but go for the pork, which has been marinated overnight in a sweet soy-based sauce and perfectly melds the other competing flavors together. Note: It’s only served until 5pm.
Located in Reseda, Valley Sandwiches is a tiny, order-at-the-register sandwich shop that only makes bánh mì—but there are 18 different kinds on the menu. If it’s your first time, go for the #1 bánh mì dac biet, a salty and savory masterpiece that comes with both rolled and cured pork, ham, pate, and mayo—all on an airy baguette that slowly absorbs the flavors as you eat. That said, our favorite sandwich is one that’s not listed on the menu: the fish ball banh mi. Filled with plump, slightly sweet fish balls and a heavy helping of dill, it’s a simple, fragrant sandwich that’s light enough to eat two of before heading back to your car. And yes, we know from experience.
The bánh mì from A Cut Above isn’t exactly traditional, but it is delicious. This butcher shop in Santa Monica fills theirs with juicy, lemongrass-seasoned grilled steak, two fried eggs, and housemade fish sauce (!), all on a toasted baguette. Its massive size and high quality ingredients justify its $14 price tag, and if you’re looking for a mind-blowing banh mi sandwich on the Westside, this is absolutely the place to get it.
photo credit: Matt Gendal
As you can probably guess from the name, Mr. Baguette is in fact a bakery that sells a variety of baked goods. But the real reason you should come to this Vietnamese mini-chain with four locations across SoCal is for their lengthy, crispy bánh mì. These sandwiches are about the size of a Subway footlong, and have the perfect ratio of bread to meat nestled inside. Our favorite is the #5, which is filled with some of the juiciest grilled pork we’ve ever encountered. Order it with extra meat if you want to make sure there’s more sandwich left to revisit around dinnertime.
There are three locations of Banh Mi Saigon 168 across LA and Orange County. Step inside the location in Rosemead and the first thing you’ll smell is fresh-baked bread. Here you can go with a crusty baguette or a round bun for your bánh mì, and since both options have a crispy outer shell that crackles into a soft and fluffy center with each bite, you can’t really go wrong. The menu here has the usual options like fried egg, pork roll, and sardine bánh mì, but our favorite is the Saigon special. It’s stacked high with plump cold cuts, pickled veggies, and enough garlicky mayo and paté to ensure that each bite is moist and creamy.
When you bite into the sesame bánh mì at Sesame Dinette, the crispy, roti-like flatbread it’s served on begins to shed crumbs like a tabby cat in springtime. This one is unconventional as far as bánh mì go: it's stuffed with either pork or chicken cold cuts and some fresh cilantro and daikon, balanced with bright yellow dijon mustard and some added crunch from chopped cucumber and bell peppers. We especially love how refreshing the toppings are, combined with that perfectly toasted and unique bun. Grab one from this cozy Long Beach cafe on your next lunch break, and be sure to browse their mini-mart for Asian home goods and pantry staples.
As you expect from a place whose full name is Ba Le Sandwiches & Bakery, this Alhambra shop nails the taste and texture of the all-important baguette. The loaves here are long (like really long), soft and cottony, with a nice outer crunch. Do we wish Ba Le went a tiny bit harder on the paté spread, or that their pickled veggies had a little more punch? Yes, but Ba Le also has the misfortune of being just down the street from toppings powerhouse Banh Mi My Tho, which is like being a truly excellent singer who lives next door to Adele. The grilled pork and house special cold cuts are standouts, but they also offer less commonly seen traditional fillings like fried fish cake and betel-leaf-wrapped grilled beef. All around, these are great bánh mì with generous heft for the price.
Go ahead, roll your eyes at the idea of the $19 bánh mì from Gjusta, Venice’s hipper-than-thou bakery and delicatessen. We get it. But once you’ve moved past the price tag, you’ll find putting house-smoked brisket on house-baked bread, then adding house-made everything else, is a formula for a truly excellent bánh mì. We love the addition of the chile-laced dressing, which cuts the richness of the smoky brisket and garlic aioli beautifully, and the tender and flavorful bread is a marvel to behold. And if you’re not into brisket, there’s another bánh mì that swaps in rotisserie chicken and creamy chicken live paté.
Serviceable bánh mì are few and far between in the South Bay, which is why when we find ourselves on Torrance Blvd. we always pull over for Little Shop of Mary, a cute takeout spot with a bright yellow awning. The sandwiches here — served on tender baguettes with a nice chewy crust — are mostly traditional with some fusion options mixed in. Fillings include sesame beef, lemongrass chicken, and our personal obsession, the juicy slow-roasted pork. Topped with pickled red onions, roasted jalapeños, and a smear of garlic mayo, its flavors taste Cuban as much as they do Vietnamese. Make sure you grab a Viet coffee with sea salt cream on the way out.
At Nong La, every morsel of lemongrass-marinated pork is charred with perfect consistency. There are crunchy bits, soft bits—our mouths water just thinking about it. This all-day Vietnamese cafe with locations in West LA or Mid-City has really, really good grilled meats. If you’re on the Westside, this is probably your best bet for quality bánh mì. While we wish they slathered some pate onto their always-fresh baguettes, their housemade mayo keeps things moist. You have your choice of filling, but if you hadn’t guessed, we like the grilled pork.
Lokal in Palms is the kind of sleepy sandwich shop that encourages you to stick around, order a coffee, and perhaps eat slowly enough to not spill on yourself. While there are a few different sandwiches and breakfast items on the menu, the place makes clear the house speciality is bánh mì. The Old Skool keeps things bright and fresh while still having all the heartiness we’re looking for at 1pm: a bite of squeakiness from the pork loaf, some butteriness from thin slices of ham and head cheese, and some needed moisture from mayo and paté. It’s a balanced sandwich that leaves you satisfied, but light enough to crave another half after you finish.