A new electronic ordering system (eek!) displays your order. My sandwich actually turns out to look much better than this picture.
News that Banh Mi Saigon — one of the city’s first purveyors of Vietnamese baguette-borne sandwiches, and long the best — was moving to a new location caused irrational fear among its adherents that the sandwiches would somehow not be quite as good. We needn’t have worried.
The new facade flaps with penants.
It was not like the place hadn’t moved before — it was originally located in a stall under the Manhattan Bridge, where Xi’an Famous Foods is now securely wedged. The second location, on Mott just south of Grand, found the establishment baking its own baguettes in the rear of a jewelry store, making the sandwiches even better than before.
Dig the new color scheme …
The new location is more opulent than the last, with plenty of elbow room. The strangest news is that the same jewelry store still occupies the front of the premises, though it’s now surrounded by wonderful dining counters, where you can while away a pleasant 10 or 15 minutes as you wolf down the still-incredible sandwiches.
… and the extra counter seating space (with a glimpse of the jewelry store on the right).
Also unexpected is the installation of a new touch-screen ordering system that has a monitor facing customers at three stations, allowing you to see the sandwich you are ordering, and providing price information as well as special features. (In this case, “spicy” means slivered fresh jalapenos, that most Vietnamese of peppers.)
The sandwiches seem even more overstuffed than before.
There’s a slightly expanded space for the other groceries and prepared foods available, and the rice balls have now been clearly labeled.
My No. 1 (homemade pork sausage and Viet pork “pate”) came amply stuffed with pickled vegetables, cucumber spears, and fresh cilantro, with a more generous portion of meat than at the old place, though that may change when the flapping plastic penants come down. The new digs are comfy, and right next to the DiPalo wine store, where you can pick a Vino Nobile or Barolo to wash down your sandwich. Though not in the restaurant, of course. 198 Grand Street, 212-941-1541
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 23, 2010