Mangez Avec Moi, Baoguette’s Downtown Competition
I was wandering down West Broadway one day when I walked past two seemingly nameless restaurants, each with the same black and white striped awning. Then I saw the words “Vietnamese sandwiches” inside the smaller one and may have squealed a little. It turns out the larger place is a sit-down Southeast Asian restaurant Mangez Avec Moi, or “Eat With Me.” They had some tasty enough sounding lunch specials for $7.50, but my heart was after the restaurant’s “Express” take out sandwich shop next door.
There is nowhere to sit inside, although there is a wooden bench out front. It appears the people who own the place may be from Laos (or just love it a lot), judging by the fact that there are giant red letters on the wall spelling this out.
Mangez Express offers a variety of sandwiches on the familiar crusty baguette. They are mostly cheaper than the downtown outlet of Baoguette that opened directly across from my office, leaving me hooked on their catfish sandwich.
All of the sandwiches are $5.99 (except the salmon, which tops out the menu at $7.99). They come in the original coldcut/pate model, lemongrass chicken or pork chop, chicken sate, tofu or a vegetarian variety, with pickled carrots, daikon, cucumber, romaine lettuce, cilantro, mayo and vinaigarette. You can add pate to any sandwich for $1.
The bread is the standard white baguette, although it has a somewhat controversial addition of cornmeal on the bottom. You can get the sandwiches spicy, which was achieved through sliced jalapeno. There may have been sriracha involved, but I could not taste it if there was. There was a bottle of it sitting on a table with another mystery red condiment in a squirt container, so perhaps you need to add it yourself.
I went with the chicken sate and also tried the lemongrass pork chop model.
The chicken in the sate sandwich did not appear to have been grilled as advertised, but was dryish white meat with a sort of curry flavoring on it. It appeared to be a favorite as several people ordered it while I was in the shop.
It was good, but the pickled carrots sort of overwhelmed much of the chicken’s flavor, and the romaine lettuce was a strange addition. I did like that the cilantro was torn up, instead of in whole stalks to chomp through, ala Baoguette.
The lemongrass porkchop was more successful, although I couldn’t taste much lemongrass flavor. This one was more moist, thanks to delicious fat on the pork chop. It also contained red hot sauce, which set my mouth on fire.
Both sandwiches were ready in under 10 minutes, with a couple of people in line ahead of me. As I noticed a sign saying they also have 7-grain bread, I wondered who would ask for that. And then the guy behind me did.
Added bonuses to Mangez are the various snacks they sell (shrimp chips! Cream puffs!) and the small steam table of Southeast Asian dishes:
Most of it looked fairly pedestrian like pad thai, but then I noticed two covered tureens at the end that contained pork and chicken dumplings and buns. At $6.50 per pound, there is a fairly good chance I will be back to sample the goods, as dumplings are few and far between in downtown.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- It’s cheaper than Baoguette
- Pate for $1? Sign me up!
- Hello, homemade shrimp chips.
- They have a steam table with dumplings.
THE — (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Fancy lettuce doesn’t belong on a banh mi.
- The spiciness is hit or miss.
- I like my Vietnamese sandwiches out of a dingy shop.
Mangez Avec Moi, 71 W Broadway at Warren St., (212) 385-0008