V-Nam Café: New Competitor Joins E.V. Beef Sandwich Fray


Plenty of tender marinated beef in V-Nam’s banh mi bo.

Roast beef sandwiches have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. On one hand, there’s the traditional Italian roast beef hero as espoused by This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef, Defonte’s Sandwich Shop, and several other establishments.

On the other hand are such newfangled places as Bowery Beef, where a more compact sandwich slathered with horseradish and barbecue sauce evokes the roast beef joints north of Boston.

Both are available in the East Village, but they’ve recently been joined by a third, unexpected style of sandwich: a Vietnamese banh mi turned to roast beef uses. This Southeast Asian hero was seemingly invented at newcomer V-Nam Café, where a good wad of grilled beef is deposited in a demi-baguette with the usual pickled vegetables, cilantro, and mayo.

But another innovation is in store: Instead of just getting your sandwich plain or spicy, there are three gradations of hotness, deploying as many as three scalding substances: mild (sriracha only), medium (sriracha and fresh jalapeños), and very spicy (sriracha, fresh jalapeños, and pickled Thai bird’s-eye chiles). And, let me tell you, the “very spicy” is way hot. Consistent with the pricing of other beef sandwiches in the neighborhood, the price is $6.50, and you can add an egg on top for an additional $1.

V-Nam Café
20 First Avenue

The sandwich is made on a nice, light demi-baguette.