As if the rapidly proliferating number of Baoguettes weren’t enough to make the city wary of any news concerning cilantro and pork pate, today’s Brooklyn Paper story about the escalating turf war between two rival Park Slope banh mi shops is a clear indication that we need something different to chew on.
To wit: Hanco Tang is the owner of Hanco’s, a banh mi shop with a second location in Boerum Hill. Henry Huynh is the owner of Henry’s, a banh mi shop located four blocks south of Hanco’s. Henry and some of his relatives used to work for Hanco. Henry and his relatives left Hanco’s under less than amiable conditions. Henry and his relatives opened Henry’s, which serves sandwiches almost identical to Hanco’s and uses a menu that even uses a typeface identical to Hanco’s. Hanco is accusing Henry of stealing his recipes. Henry issues a “What, me?” denial. And then marauding foodies descend on both shops to take sides and fight to the death.
If this all seems familiar, that’s because it is. This summer has already brought us a ring match between fine dining titan Mr. Chow and his erstwhile underling, Philippe Chow (ne Chak Yam Chau); two years ago, Rebecca Charles sued Ed McFarland, claiming that McFarland, a former sous chef at Charles’ Pearl Oyster Bar, had copied “each and every element” of her restaurant in his own Ed’s Lobster Bar. And — oh, the irony — Hanco himself was accused of copy-cat behavior by the owner of An Dong, the legendary Sunset Park banh mi shop Hanco frequented before opening his first store.
But what is New York if not a crucible for staggering acts of chutzpah and hubris? As with other (edible) turf wars, the victor here has to win only stomachs, not hearts and minds. Or at least that seems to be the case on the Brooklynian.com forum board, where 8thandPrez framed the issue in rather more stark terms: “God help us if we end up with a good but pricey (Hanco’s) and a just-plain-shitty joint mere blocks from each other.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 25, 2009