Flatiron Lunch: Luu’s Baguette gives Baoguette a run for its money
Every Friday we go south of the ML boundaries in search of a delicious lunch. Sometimes it’s Murray Hill south or the Flatiron District, sometimes Gramercy and everything in between- but we just like to call it Flatiron Lunch.
Remember the Banh Mi Craze of the late ’00s? Everyone went nuts dissecting if the baguette had the right balance of crunch and softness, if the meats were authentic, and if the pickled and cilantro toppings were appropriately portioned. Lunch’ers even organized their own Banh Mi Palooza in 2010. While a few years late to the game (they seemed to have opened around 2011), Luu’s Baguette could have thrown its hat into the ring.
I am not sure how this gem snuck by me, especially considering it is around the corner from Baoguette. I am going to attribute my oversight to the wonder of Curry Hill. We could have an entire column devoted to just Curry Hill lunch and still miss stuff. Actually, Zach, Curry Hill Lunch? Great idea, right?
With only about 7 people in front of me on line, the ordering process moved fairly slowly. So if you are in a hurry, perhaps it would be best to order in advance for pick-up or delivery. Then again, it only took a couple minutes for my two dishes to come out once ordered. Of course, if you have time, you could also eat there. With two rooms of seating, they have about 45 seats in total. And when I was there, I was one of the few non-Asian customers which I took as a good indicator about the authenticity and quality of the food.
Of course, I ordered the banh mi. In fact, they have nine different banh mi options, but I went with the banh mi dac biet special baguette with bbq pork, cured pork salami, pork roll, in addition to pork liver pate and the regular toppings ($6.25). It is important to note that for $1 a fried egg can be added to any of the banh mi sandwiches, which I think should be an option at every restaurant for every dish!
As I said, this sandwich could compete with the best of them. I wish the sandwich fillings were a little bit better distributed, so each bite had a full cross-section. Instead, the bbq pork was all piled close to the seam of the bread. And since I love cilantro, I could have used more. Since it has been a year or two since my last Baoguette, I can’t say which would win in a head-to-head competition… Any Lunch’ers care to revive the Banh Mi Palooza?
I also had to try something else while I was there, so I went for Pho Tai (according to the menu, “raw beef eye of round”) $6.95. As far as I can tell, it is a traditional beef pho. The dish was wisely packed in two different containers for take out. The broth filled about half of a quart soup container, and a Styrofoam clam-shell had the noodles, onion slices, scallions, sprouts, cilantro and raw super thin slices of beef. I would have liked the addition of basil, chili peppers, and a lime wedge or two.
Did it weird me out a little that the beef had turned parts of the noodle pile pink? Perhaps. But I got over it quickly. I was very hungry so instead of planning the best order to layer the ingredients into the broth, I un-strategically dumped all of them into the soup container at once and let the beef start cooking in the hot broth. The beef was sliced thin enough that even after a long broth bath, it was still perfectly tender and easy to chew (unlike the pho bo at Obao which I had to gnaw through). For such a reasonable price, they included a good amount of beef. The broth was brilliantly subtle and delicate, yet wasn’t overpowered when I added sriracha. I have heard people rave about pho as a hangover cure, and I can totally see it. The leftovers tasted just as good the next day.
Keep in mind the two items I ordered are just a small part of the menu, and with sheets of paper with extra items, your options are plentiful. In fact, I had extra room in my budget, I should have also gotten the salty lemonade for $2.75 that caught my attention. Next Time. With tripe pho.
The + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- I cannot get enough banh mi and Luu’s is top notch!
- I am still dreaming about the pho broth.
- I am happy to see the prices a couple dollars less than competitors.
The – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I am not impressed with the toppings placement on the banh mi.
- It shouldn’t take longer to place your order than for the food to be prepared.
- Their pho is a short a few traditional ingredients.
Luu’s Baguette, 134 East 26th Street (between Lexington and 3rd Avenues), 212-679-8881