New York Times Names the Best Bánh Mìs in America--and Not One is From Little Saigon

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The New York Times' coverage of Vietnamese food has always been laughable--who can ever forget its decade-late feature on Sriracha or it declaring 2009 the "year of the bánh mì" (while neglecting to mention Little Saigon among the nation's Vietnamese enclaves) about seven years after they penetrated mainstream culture? But over the weekend, the Gray Lady proved itself not to be merely ignorant, but also downright mendacious, when its T Magazine throwaway published a piece on the best bánh mìs in America--and not one listed was in Little Saigon.

You know Little Saigon, right, New York Times? Largest concentration of Vietnamese in the world outside Vietnam? You'd think they'd know a bit more about crafting a proper bánh mì than, say, Atlanta (which made the list), but not in your myopic, parachute-journalism world.

Rant continued after the jump!

The whole piece (with the pretentious title "Banh Mi In America") is laughable and typical of the empty swagger that Times reporters exhibit at their worst. "Beware the banh mi over $6," writer Jordan Michelman warns, as if he actually knows bánh mì economics, and him willing to pay even six bucks for a Viet sandwich shows he doesn't. He even tries to posit the bánh mì as a bit of a "Northwestern phenomenon" just because he listed Seattle and Portland as having superior bánh mìs--a funny proposition on the latter because I once dated a Vietnamese girl from Irvine who attended Lewis & Clark College and deemed the Vietnamese food in the Rose City TERRIBLE.

Houston--which has a large Vietnamese community--gets no mention. San Jose gets mentioned via its mighty Lee's Sandwiches empire--but Lee's is hardly the best bánh mì in town (forgot the name of the shop near a Latino theater near the convention center, but it was a goodie). In fact, the only Southern California bánh mì that gets any attention is the overrated luxe lonchera Nom Nom Truck, which only shows Michelman is a scenester of the worst kind--and if he's a reporter in Southern California in search of great bánh mís and doesn't venture past a Twitter feed and into the San Gabriel Valley or Little Saigon, then he's just a pendejo of the worst degree.

No apologies, Jordan: We take our bánh mìs seriously 'round here. Here's a list I thought up in a second that'll beat any on your list: Thanh Tam for Americanized bánh mìs. Top Baguette for awesome baguettes. Lemongrass beef at Nhu Lan Bakery. A breakfast bánh mì at Tan Hoang Huong. Pork four ways in one bánh mì at Ba Le. And the best of them all at Bánh Mì Cho Cu. If you had bothered to contact any of us Forkers (or anyone in Orange County--you know, home to the largest Vietnamese community in the United States), we would've been more than happy to send you to those and others--but you didn't. But, hey, kudos to you for scoring a paycheck from the Times for an article that's a fraud.

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21 comments
Claudia Koerner
Claudia Koerner

Vietnamese food in Portland? My family's had a hard time finding a good bowl of pho there at least.

Dave Lieberman
Dave Lieberman

Baoguette? Seriously? I mean, it's not BAD... but I wouldn't even chase down from Midtown for one, let alone call it the best in the nation.

Saigon Sandwich and Dong Phuong are serious contenders, for sure, though the corner of Turk and Larkin is not exactly the ghetto. I ate the sandwiches (they were 90¢ then) at SS nearly every day when trying to stay within government per diem, back when I was consulting for Big California.

This seems to have been "researched" using Yelp and Wikipedia. Pork and fish sauce in mayonnaise? Fish sauce in pickles? Any place that does these deserves to be ridiculed.

Bsquared
Bsquared

I vote for Ba Le! Banh Mi #1. I was there this weekend and they got rid of their (rickety) table. The owner said that the city made him take it out. Now I have to eat it on the hood of my car!

This guy is a dope for missing the boat on Little Saigon. I grew up in OC and started eating Vietnamese food when I was a kid. Eating Banh Mi made me want to take a trip to Vietnam. The Nom Nom truck is pretty weak. I have to ask my wife how to say "Gringo" in Vietnamese.

My wife is from Saigon (District 3!). I grew up on the rough streets of Santana. Mexican and Vietnamese is the classic OC romance. And Vietna-Mex babies are beautiful!

foodiew
foodiew

I'm guessing that Gustavo "Nguyen" thinks he's an expert on everything. I guess he's eaten in every Vietnamese restaurant in the world. He probably invented the Banh Mi!

JB
JB

You dated a Vietnamese girl? Mexican + Viet...a classic Orange County romance(though the NY Times would say Atlanta)

T.L.
T.L.

I really enjoyed your article and agree with your critique of the laughable NY Times coverage of Banh Mi. Here's my comment on the same article that they have denied posting:

Comment

By listing Lee's Sandwiches for San Jose, this author has clearly demonstrated that this article was basically researched via Yelp or another similar service. Except... for the Original Lee's Sandwiches location, this banh mi chain store is basically one of the worse sandwiches I've ever had. Also, I agree with the commenter who points out that the author puts California as an afterthought.

I understand that as New Yorkers we think that we are the center of the universe, but when it comes to banh mi, we basically bastardized the concept and stuck a $8 price tag on it. There are good banh mi shops here, but there are also a lot of derivative sandwiches that do not bear much resemblance to, let alone capture the taste and essence of a real Vietnamese banh mi.

If you are obsessed with all things Banh Mi, here's a very funny television pilot about two clueless white owners who have to save their failing banh mi shop in the LES of NYC (http://vimeo.com/13377972).

digkv
digkv

The sad thing is that some people actually take the new york times as a legitimate source for food trends. I'm sure they do know a lot about East coast food and high end stuff but it's ridiculous that they would forget about the best place for Vietnamese food outside of Vietnam, Little Saigon. Kudos to you Gustavo for calling them out, they might not even notice but hey they obviously know nothing when it comes to Viet food.

Shuji Sakai
Shuji Sakai

A great example of a New York writer bluffing his way through food not his own, and about places beyond 20 miles of the Hudson River

el serracho
el serracho

http://www.urbandictionary.com...

s an expression, used as an interjection, in reaction to the confusion and perplexity that arises when a person fails to realize or recognize that they are in fact, just on the Internet, and no argument or comment or blog post is going to change anything at all, or mean much of anything to anyone outside a limited blog audience. blawg! is enhanced as a reaction to undue and misplaced umbrage.

blogger: man, if Obama had only read through my recent posts, he would have done the right thing with the Lilly Ledbetter Legislation.commentor: blawg!

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

No, it's there—it just doesn't compare to Little Saigon.

digkv
digkv

exactly right? who the heck puts fish sauce in do chua? and how the heck would you be able to put pork into mayo, it doesn't make sense, i've never heard of it or seen it.

Annie
Annie

"gringo" in vietnamese is "my trang"-- white westerner/whitie. i guess it would be similar to "cracka" or something like that.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Ooo, another troll with nothing worthwhile to add to the conversation!

digkv
digkv

oh wow I just read the article, why is she saying that the viet mayo has pork and fish sauce in it? Why is she saying you put fish sauce in do chua? Whoever does that to their banh mi is not making it right. She throws in California like it's an afterthought, and includes Lee's and nomnom as the best of California? And if she's eating chicken liver pate in her banh mi, she's also doing it all wrong.

jeesung
jeesung

i think he was mixing up the pate for the mayo ;-)

Bsquared
Bsquared

What? I got a tattoo of that on my arm. My wife said it meant "happiness forever". No wonder people laugh when I go swimming in the Mekong.

just sayin'
just sayin'

to be fair, while ignoring OC was a slight you aren't commenting on any of the other locations mentioned. just poo-poohing them because they didn't meet your geographical demands. then you mention what you heard from a girlfriend. hard hitting journalism indeed.

Gustavo, if you want to criticize someone for a hacky blog post, I'd recommend doing it in a format other than a hacky blog post of your own.

gustavoarellano
gustavoarellano

Oh, please. You're letting your views on me color your opinion of my piece. If I want to get some pecan pie and I'm smart, I'm going to the South, not SanTana, so it's perfectly acceptable to write what I dis.

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