Baoguette Wins Lunch’er Organized “Banh-Mi-Palooza”

Last week Lunch’er Christene floated the idea of a banh mi tasting in the connections section of the forums. Yesterday 7 Midtown Lunchers gathered in Grand Central to turn her dream into a reality. Here is Christene’s report…

With open minds and empty stomach, 7 Midtown lunchers gathered to rate 7 different banh mi-style sandwiches in a head-to-head competition. To ensure nuance and balance in the competition, representative banh mi’s were to include Chinatown (Paris Sandwich, Banh Mi Saigon), East Village (Nicky’s), Gramercy (Baoguette) and, of course, Midtown (Ma Peche, Yushi, and Boi To Go). We rated the sandwiches with 5 points assigned to each of 6 categories: bread, pork, vegetables, overall taste, authenticity and value. To ensure purveyors and/or price-point did not prejudice the taste ratings, we labeled sandwiches A-G and provided price on the flip side of post-its, so that tasters could self-reveal price after eating the sample and thus rate value independently.

The results are after the jump…

Baoguette won hands down with 5 #1 rankings overall and the highest overall points. Banh Mi Saigon and Boi To Go each had one #1 ranking, and Banh Mi Saigon had the second highest overall points. The Ma Peche banh mi maison chicken banh mi rated lowest in all categories, particularly far below others in overall taste, authenticity and value. (Although in fairness, how can chicken ever beat pork?)


In the end Nicky’s could not be included because they are closed for renovation – neither posting the information on their website nor answering the phone when present but not serving provided extra disappointment. Thus, the 7th sandwich was the Ma Peche chicken banh mi, which we rated alongside the others, though calling it banh may be questionable.



Baoguette was the group favorite with a flavorful variety of pork, nice quality bread, and good balance of flavors and textures. Baoguette earned the highest ranking in all categories, including overall taste. Expectedly, only Chinatown banh mi’s rated higher in value. Baoguette at $5 plus tax (compared to $3.75 lowest price, and $10 plus tax highest price), provided the best value banh mi outside of Chinatown.

Ma Peche’s banh mi maison chicken banh mi rated the lowest. The bread is a nice quality French baguette, but the sandwich struck us as plain, which is different from simple and certainly not descriptive of a well-made banh mi, as well as unappealing. Though asterisking the entrant due to not being pork, we unilaterally liked the flavor of the Ma Peche chicken banh mi, which rated second in the *pork* category, second only to Baoguette. Plus, we gorged ourselves on the gorgeous Ma Peche deserts, so to some that might be reason enough to eat their chicken sandwich. UPDATE: The letters got mixed up.  The banh mi maison was universally liked from a flavor standpoint, and rated 2nd only to Baoguette in porkiness (makes sense).  But it ended up in 5 place, probably because of the price.

Yushi rated the overall second lowest. Of their 3 pork products, they include “barbequed” pork slathered in hoisin sauce. Though none of us dislike hoisin sauce itself, it masks all the other flavors and makes the sandwich too saucy and mushy. Add to that the soft, untoasted bread, and for the expectation of banh mi sandwich, the experience is not pleasant.

Banh Mi Saigon and Paris Sandwich took the second and third overall ratings and first and second value ratings, in that order, with Banh Mi Saigon edging out Paris Sandwich by a very slim margin. As reviewed before, Paris Sandwich wins on bread and Banh Mi Saigon wins on filling (pork and vegetables), though some may find the Banh Mi Saigon fillings too sweet.

Boi To Go ranked #4 overall, and as Yelp and other reviewers suggest, it is the most controversial. Among the crowd, it had the highest variation in points. The flavor of the pork is very distinctive with a strong flavor (perhaps anise?) – which some intensely like and some intensely dislike. Quite simply, if you don’t mind experimenting with $8, you’d have to try it yourself to decide.


Overall points ranking:

1 – Baoguette (5), Multiple Locations (link)
2 – Saigon Banh Mi (1), 138 Mott St (btw Grand St & Hester St), 212-941-1541
3 – Paris Sandwich, 213 Grand St.
4 – Boi To Go (1), Two Locations (link)
5 – Ma Peche Chicken Pork (link)
6 – Yushi, 245 Park Avenue (on 47th btw. Lex+Park), 212-687-1900
7 – Ma Peche Pork Chicken (link)

Number of #1 Rankings in (parenthesis)

For more photos, and a complete report from one judges point of view check out Feisty Foodie.


  • Wow, Excellent article.

  • Excellent job, Christene!

    And it wasn’t Grand Central but location is no matter…near Gourmet 53. lol.

    Glad to see Banh Mi Saigon is ranked higher overall than I believed it to be. And seriously, Ma Peche is not worth it.

  • Nicely done. WHy am I not shocked that an actual comparative tasting revealed that the Ma Peche offering is not the be-all end-all of gastronomic nirvana in NYC? Self-professed “foodies” take note: the glorious Momofuk(y)u emperor is actually naked.

    • I’m not surprised either… price was factored into the final score, so they were always going to come in last based on the price alone.

      Not to mention that Ma Peche’s banh mi is not a real banh mi… It’s a three terrine sandwich. So if you love liver and head cheese, it’s the greatest sandwich of all time. If you don’t, it’s not.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    Banh mi that is both $10 and does not taste good. What a joke.

  • Great article!!!

  • Thanks for setting it up, Christene!!! Awesome job. I will be looking forward to more of your great ideas.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    glad we agree on Baoguette and Ma Peche

    You missed out on Viet-Nam Banh Mi So 1 though

  • you needed not the jewelry store banh mi at 138 mott, but the banh mi at 369 broome to properly represent chinatown.

  • Apparently there was a letter mix up. The chicken banh mi ranked lowest. The banh mi maison actually got good scores for flavor, but came in 5th because of the price.

    That makes a lot more sense…

    • Thanks Zach for updating the entry. Sorry about that. I was oblivious to the Ma Peche sandwiches being cut. Christene and Yvo can kill me later for getting that wrong and not looking closer at them sooner. All my fault.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    what were the rankings for overall taste?

  • I’m sorry for inflicting the Yushi dumplings on everyone at the tasting. They were pretty godamn awful – like Rickshaw Dumpling Truck awful.

  • Anybody try Hing Won’s versions of banh mi?

    Off topic — there’s free hot dogs at the Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg on Sunday from noon to 3pm.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    what about numpang???

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    The neglect of the Hing Won Express Bahn Mi in midtown is criminal. Hing Won (on 48th btw. 5+6th).

  • wow christene, nice write up! sorry I was remiss with my “scoring”. :/

    I’m going to risk the haterade, but the Ma Peche 3-terrine sandwich served on the mezzanine of the Chambers Hotel is damn tasty – quality baguette and terrine…even if it’s a $10 *snack*. It was, however, atrociously awful as takeout.

    @MattZ & avisualperson: I agree. Banh Mi So 1 (or now Saigon, since they a new awning) on Broome St is a serious contender for best “traditional” banh mi, and much better than nearby competitors. It would have been interesting to see how well it traveled compared to the other Chinatown banh mi. But, I might be a little impartial… I like their sandwiches so much, I had it twice over the weekend.

    • Miche, Christene and I ate it again today and without any travel (lucky they allowed us to sit off to the side so their hospitality was welcomed.) It didn’t seem too busy today so I guess they weren’t against the idea. It is for lunch pick-up only so you can commence the sad-face if you were hoping for in-house service.

      The chicken still ranks the lowest after eating it again (and finishing it up after a generous squirt of hot sauce). The terrine/pork was definitely the tastier option and wasn’t atrocious at all. Both had the quality french bread for sure. However, neither banh mi broke through their current rankings IMO. At $10, expectations are high, so best overall taste and value needs to occur (The fatty inside me can’t say I would rather have 1 Ma Peche over 2 Baoguettes unless it was at least two-times better tasting and comparable in size). The pork puts up a good fight though, but the chicken falls flat.

      I need to try that So 1/ Saigon place at 369 Broome sometime.

  • User has not uploaded an avatar

    I would say once upon a time Saigon ruled them all but ever since they’ve moved to Grand St they haven’t been the same. Heck they’ve never been the same since they moved from under the bridge when I was eating there almost 13 years ago but I am happy for their success despite their banh mi quality going down several notches.

Leave a Reply

You must log in or register to post a comment.