Eat Here, Not There: Bánh Mì for the Los Angeles Crowd, Or: More Reasons to Hate on Red Medicine

In some ways, I wish they kept this idiocy...
Last night, I traveled to Los Angeles to dine at Rivera, the fabulous restaurant that spans Latin America and is the latest stunner by John Sedlar, the last of the Southwestern-cuisine Mohicans. I was there to interview Sedlar for my coming book, and I'll reveal his favorite OC restaurant next week.

After our interview, I had dinner with my chica and Bill Esparza, the blogger behind the encyclopedic Street Gourmet LA, and like his fellow Top Chef: Masters guest Eddie Lin, another food blogger's food blogger--a guy all us food writers read religiously but who remains a secret. The topic in LA food circles remains the unceremonious outing of Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbila and her subsequent expulsion by the douches behind Red Medicine, a restaurant I had never heard about until this fiasco. Bill wrote his own take on the mess and filled me in on other details--like how the owners had actually come up with the above logo before scrapping it after coming to their senses. How stupid and pompous are these guys? They're lucky they didn't try to open their "punk Vietnamese" concept in Orange County, or they'd be rightfully filleted by actual Vietnamese.

One of Rivera's waiters must have overheard our conversation because he told us he had the best bánh mì of his life at some event catered by Jordan Kahn, one of the guys behind Red Medicine. Esparza and I laughed. Loudly. We explained Little Saigon, the impossibility of comparing the region's bánh mìs to something that gets its baguette from some fancy-ass bakery.

"Well, where can I get a good bánh mì in Los Angeles?" the waiter countered.

After the jump, young padewan!
Taken from those crazy Yelp kids, but they stole this photo from our paper--true story!

Not in Los Angeles.

LA might have some bánh mì shops and some Vietnamese, but it's simple logic. If people want the best Korean in Southern California, they travel to LA's Koreatown. Best Persian? Irvine or West Los Angeles. Ethiopian? Off Fairfax. Anything else might work but pales to the true center of a particular foodstuff.

Ergo: Little Saigon and Vietnamese food, especially bánh mì. You're getting overcharged in Los Angeles for bánh mìs, and better to have a Little Saigon feast rather than a one-off meal.

All of us Forkers have our favorite bánh mì shop, but if each of us had to make a list of the top five, I'm sure Bánh Mì Cho Cu would make all of them. It's my favorite--massive torpedos, bread baked in-house, a beautiful breakfast bánh mì and another featuring lemongrass beef. Yeah, the drive might be long, Angelenos, but better that than to spend $12 on a "gourmet" bánh mì by arrogant pretenders who can't even spell the sandwich's damn name right.

You could also go to the San Gabriel Valley--but this is the OC Weekly, not the San Gabriel Valley Tribune or whatever that region's rag is called.

Banh Mi Cho Cu, 14520 Magnolia St., Ste. B, Westminster, (714) 891-3718.

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