Like any other type of sandwich, banh mi benefit hugely from being made fresh in front of you. You can frequently get banh mi at Vietnamese groceries and some restaurants as a grab-and-go, wrapped in cellophane, and they just are no where near as good as a fresh sandwich.
Bread makes a difference too—if you can find a place that bakes the bread fresh, you can bet the banh mi is going to be good. And Binh Minh is a bakery as well as a banh mi shop.
Binh Minh is a phone booth of a place around the corner from the Pacific Super Market. They have a couple tables indoors that aren't really designed to be sat at for more than a couple American-sized people, and a couple tables outside. You go to the coolers and pick up your beverage, a gelatin dessert, shrimp flavored chips, etc, and then step over a step and order from the sign board on the wall.
Foodwise, I'm told it's pretty traditional. There are eight sandwiches, most $2.50: the Vietnamese sandwich (banh mi cha thit nguoi, $2), meat ball (banh mi xiu mai), barbeque pork (banh mi xa xiu), lemongrass chicken (banh mi thit ga nuong), Vietnamese pork (banh mi cha lua), fish (banh mi ca), pate (banh mi pate), and shredded pork (banh mi bi).
There are five soups and stews: fish soup (chao ca, tom, $5), Vietnamese rice noodle with pork (bahn cahn tom, xa xiu, $5), egg noodle with beef (mi bo kho, $5), beef stew with french bread (banh mi bo kho, $3.95), and french bread with round egg (banh mi op-la, $3.25). You can add extra meat or vegetables for 50 cents more.
I haven't tried any of the soups or stews, but I've had all of the sandwiches, and, wow, there's not a bad one in the bunch. I particularly enjoy the pate, but the lemongrass chicken is also great, and an option you don't always find elsewhere.
In addition, they always have some stuff in the hot case: steamed pork buns, and spring rolls for sure.
The sandwiches, let's face it, aren't huge: they're about the size of a skinny hoagy, so plan on getting two or supplementing it somehow.
The staff aren't terrifically friendly, but they know english well, and they're really speedy.
Stopping in to Binh Minh is always a treat—I think their banh mi are the ones to beat.
filled under Restaurants, storefronts, taquerias, and other eateries in NE Portland
October 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2)