Subway Lunch: This Could Be the Perfect Week For Banh Mi

Thanksgiving might be the ideal week for a subway lunch.  Your boss took the week off, there’s not a lot of work to do, and you probably won’t be missed if the line is too long at the Shake Shack. Sure, you can make it there and back in under an hour with the perfect conditions, but it’s always better to wait for a week like this to try your luck (just to be safe.)  This particular lunch that I was emailed took place in Boston, but feel free to use it as inspiration.  It should be pretty easy to substitute “Saigon” or “Nicky’s” into the story, and it will still apply:

“I’ve seen the banh mi conversations running through Midtown Lunch, but have yet to try one. The only banh mi I have come across is the one at Dishes. At $12, (which, from what I can tell, is a 500% markup) it better have white truffles and gold flakes in it if you want me to order one. Well, what Midtown Lunch started, chowhound helped me finish. I am once again in Boston (I work there sometimes), and desperate for good food (I really don’t have a thing for mall food courts), I searched Banh Mi in Boston. After some consideration I decided to head out to Mei Sum Bakery in Chinatown at 40 Beach Street (1.2 miles away according to googlemaps). The goal, get banh mi and be back at the desk in less than one hour, while spending less than $10 bucks.”

“After walking by 3 or 4 chinese restaurants filled with office workers sitting down and eating a fancy lunch (I think people in Boston actually do that kind of stuff), I found Mei Sum Bakery, full of elderly chinese men. Jackpot! Banh Mi comes in 3 varieties, pork, tofu and beef, and costs $2.50. I ordered pork and tofu, and asked the ladies behind the counter what else I should eat, they recommended a BBQ pork bun. Total price, $6.40. Starving (it was 12:30 already, and I had just walked almost a mile and half for food) I started on the pork bun as I walked out of the shop, and my guess was confirmed, this place is awesome. The dough was sweet, and the sweetness/saltiness of the chunks of pork was perfect. There was just the right ratio of pork to bun to sauce and it was easy to eat while walking.”

“I made it back in an hour, and with my appetizer in my belly, I broke out the Banh Mi (pictures of the pork banh mi are attached). It’s got three kinds of pork, slices of smoked and uncured pork, with the fat forming a ring around the edges, plus ground pork. In addition to the pork, this thing is stuffed with cilantro, chiles, onions a few carrots and with some sort of sweetish garlicky sacue. It all comes together with a nice crusty baguette. The tofu banh mi will be saved for the train ride home, cause I’m full on less than $5! -Lee”

As commenters have mentioned before, this could easily be done in NYC:

  • “Nicky’s Vietnamese on east 2nd between Aves A and B (F train to 2nd Ave, then a few blocks walk) for real deal banh mi and a Vietnamese iced coffee”  -Shauna D.
  • “Rock center on the B/D to Grand St. There are two vietnamese places within a block, and Vanessa’s Dumpling House on Eldridge is super close and packed at lunch.” -Danny

Godspeed. And feel to report back…


  • The banh mi in NYC sucks. If you want the real thing go to Philly.

  • Woah now…hold your horses for a sec…just cuz the place is a Vietnamese joint doesn’t mean it makes a competent banh mi. So don’t go running into the Vietnamese joints closest to the Grand stop looking for banh mi. And don’t get fooled by the french bread they might have behind the sneeze guards, either. For the purposes of this challenge, I recommend Saigon Bakery or Banh Mi So #1 and neither is particularly close to the Grand street stop. The N to Canal is your best bet.

  • @JustNancy – I think you’re confused. Saigon is on Mott btw. Grand and Hester, four blocks away from the Grand Stop- and Banh Mi So is on Broome btw Mott and Elizabeth (I think). I think both are a little closer to Grand than Broadway & Canal… but probably the same distance from the JMZ or 6.

  • I’ve made the banh-mi subway run from Bryant Park to Chinatown on several occasion, and both Saigon Bakery and Banh Mi So #1 are in fact pretty close to the Grand St. stop. Three blocks and four blocks, respectively.,-95.677068&sspn=34.861942,72.070313&ie=UTF8&ll=40.718632,-73.995935&spn=0.004074,0.008798&z=17

  • B/D to Saigon and back can easily be done in one hour if you show up early.
    N/W to Astoria for a gyro is also doable, esp on a week like this.

  • Not when it’s raining and the subway system shuts down

  • Hm. I stand corrected. Good luck to anyone who takes up the challenge…

  • Aw, ****. I was thinking the East Broadway stop for some reason. Obviously I’m already on vacation…

  • I prefer Paris Sandwich on Mott between Hester and Canal. It’s close enough to all trains. I’m able to go, eat and get back to Midtown within an hour.

  • i wish someone would make a philly cheese steak banh mi

  • i agree ny banh mi is kind of off – the best banh mi on the east coast (and any viet food for that matter) can be found at this vietnamese supermall in northern virginia- – 2.50 a sammich and buy 5 get 1 free is the usual deal at my favorite spot – they bake the bread in house. also called ‘banh mi so 1′, but not a chain (banh mi so 1 just means #1 sandwich in viet) – link –

    there are like 10 other places in that food mall alone that makes good banh mi…just saying for all you viet food lovers, this place is worth the pilgramage. i grew up going here every weekend…just look through the site at all the restaurants and ull see what i mean. fortunately im going home this week for thanksgiving so im definitely bringing buy 5 get 1 free back to brooklyn with me. they pack all the pickles and cilantro on the side for u, so the sandwiches are good for a few days.

  • Oh, what the heck—since the boss is away, why not take the D (express) train to Ba Xuyên in Sunset Park? If you don’t mind wasting a minute or two, you could check out my post:

  • I recently moved to NYC from Boston. I lived within a 10 minute walk of Mei Sum and ate their pork buns every chance I could (I even started the “What’s your favorite thing to eat in Boston right” thread on CH to declare my love).

    Mei Sum probably has the best overall bahn mi in Boston, but if the original poster is still in the area, he should check out Lu Lu’s sandwich shop (diagonally across from Mei Sum) for their awesome meatball bahn mi. It’s attached to a jewelry store (sound familiar?) That is hands-down the best bahn mi I’ve had anywhere, but if you’re not in the mood for meatballs, Mei Sum’s is better.

  • @heWho – thanks for the tip. I am in Boston for business every now and again, and I will certainly try Lu Lu’s next time. In fact, at $2.50 a sandwich, I might have to go to both!

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