It wasn’t all that long ago that a majority of North Americans were unfamiliar with bánh mì. Over the past decade, the Vietnamese sandwich has become more mainstream, with pricier hipster variations popping up all over the place. V-Nam Cafe (20 First Avenue; 212-780-6020) in the East Village offers a range of sammies and other Vietnamese treats for a steal.
Everything on the menu is less than $10. The classic bánh mì ($6.25) is the most popular item. Filled with smooth pork pâté and crisp barbecued pork, the sandwich is served on a baguette with pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and choice of spice, ranging from mild or medium srirachas (the latter with jalapenos) to very spicy (extra sriracha, jalapenos, and Thai chiles). And it’s not just pork: For those looking for something slightly more kosher, the bánh mì ga ($6.25) features baked shredded chicken. Other options are sliced beef ($7.75) and crispy red-curry sunfish ($7.50) with honey mustard aioli. For an extra $1, you can add a fried egg to any sandwich.
The sandwiches are large enough to sate a ravenous appetite, but there are other selections that’ll fill you up for around the same price. Rice vermicelli noodles with cucumber, herbs, salad, lime, fish sauce, and roasted crushed peanuts can be paired with beef ($8.50), chicken ($8), fish ($8.50), spring roll ($7.75), and a veggie ($8.75), with the choice of soy protein or tofu and vegetarian soy lime sauce. Pho, with the same options for toppings, rings in around $8.
Rice dishes are all around the same price. Served with soup or salad, clay pot ginger chicken, clay pot red-curry fish, spicy green-curry chicken, yellow-curry chicken, and Vietnamese beef stew with tomato, anise, daikon, and carrot all cash out at $8.25.
The East Village may be known for its pricey cocktail bars and trendy eateries, but you can still find some serious Vietnamese deals at this place.