The Early Word: Saigon Shack
Duck banh mi
Saigon Shack has been open for about a month, selling banh mi, pho, and other Vietnamese and pan-Asian snacks to hungry NYU students and Greenwich Village residents. Looking for a quick lunch, we popped in today to see how their sandwiches stack up against the competition.
There are a lot of players in the banh mi game, and it's hard to beat the under-$4 price tag from Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, the beloved hybrid jewelry boutique and sandwich shop, or Ba Xuyen out in Sunset Park. Indeed, the classic version at Saigon Shack is $5 and the duck sandwich is $10. The ambiance, though, is much nicer than any other banh mi shop's, with several wooden tables and a full coffee counter in the space that used to be Esperanto Café. We had to wait about five to 10 minutes for the sandwiches, but didn't particularly mind, since they arrived warm and fresh.
Both sandwiches came stuffed inside crusty loaves. The duck version (pictured above) was filled with moist breast meat (though, unfortunately, the delectably fatty skin had all been taken off), basil leaves, scallions, julienned cucumber, and a light smear of hoisin sauce. A little more hoisin would have been appreciated, but, all in all, the sandwich was satisfying and a good balance between bread and filling. A good choice for lunch, especially when you're craving the flavors of pho but don't want to commit to soup.
Classic banh mi
The classic version comes with ground roasted pork, a nice gelatinous headcheese, and cha lua, the Vietnamese pork roll. Although there was ample filling stuffed inside, particularly with the meats, we would have liked a little more cilantro and cucumber thrown in, and a little less mayonnaise. It wasn't our favorite banh mi in the city, but it's good for the 'hood. Though it's got some competition now that Artichoke has moved in across the street.
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