Before Benh Mi was a South Beach restaurant with a real cash register, it was a pandemic pop-up run out of Benjamin Murray’s kitchen. And it took very little time for the laid-off Miami chef’s bánh mì meal kits to earn the kind of following we usually only see in the world of very expensive sneakers. This was because his sandwiches were delicious, easy to make, and, by that point in the pandemic, most of us had burned through all our first, second, and third-tier TV shows.
But today, Benh Mi stands on Española Way as both a testament to the power of a good sandwich, and the home of the best bánh mì in Miami.
There are five bánh mì options on the menu at this small shop, with versions centered around a cheesy egg omelette, char siu mushroom, fried chicken, roasted pork, and short rib. And if you come here without getting one, you have made a large mistake. Everything about the bánh mì is just perfect - the bread is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the sliced veggies and herbs play their role without overwhelming the flavor of the main ingredient. There’s more good stuff on the menu too, like crispy waffle fries, spring rolls, green papaya salad, and rotating ice cream from Frice. But all these dishes should be sitting next to at least one bánh mì.
Benh Mi looks and feels like a takeout restaurant, but there are a few outdoor tables and indoor stools good for solo dining or small groups. It makes this place a great spot for a quick lunch, fuel between bar-hopping, and an essential snack pit stop before (or after) a day at the beach. But, regardless of your situation, the reason to come to Benh Mi still isn’t all that different from when Benjamin Murray was selling these out of his kitchen: you are simply in the mood for Miami’s best bánh mì.
Not only do these delicious, crispy little potato tennis rackets go well with a sandwich, but they also serve them in cups, so you can, in fact, easily eat them on the street. You can also order a bucket of fries along with Benh Mi’s very crunchy chicken tenders, in case you want to be the hero of your next beach day.
If fries sound like too heavy a side, go for the green papaya salad. It’s a bowl of seasonal veggies, toasted peanuts, and green papaya that’s a trinity of sweet, sour, and salty.
It’s a close race, but the fried chicken bánh mì is our favorite one we tried. Not only are the chicken tenders impressively crispy, but the meat is juicy and the umami mayo, pickled veggies, and herbage balance it out beautifully.
We were afraid that the egg would sort of get smushed underneath the weight of the baguette, but that didn’t happen. The fluffy omelette stayed intact while being a great contrast to the pickled veggies. Also, there’s an option to add bacon, and this is now one of our favorite breakfast sandwiches in town - even though they open at noon.
You really taste the mushrooms in this, and that is a good thing, because they are tender, deeply flavorful mushrooms. It’s worth ordering whether or not you’re looking for a meatless option.