If I could only eat one food forever, it would have to be banh mi. These Vietnamese sandwiches are crispy, fatty, crunchy, spicy, and savory all at the same time, and I never get tired of finding new places that make them all around the Seattle area. While I enjoy seeking out new flavor combinations, I usually order the restaurant’s version of the pork banh mi – and it’s slightly different every time. Sometimes the meat is roasted, but more often it’s grilled. The marinade may have notes of lemongrass or fish sauce, or it might be a little sweeter. There might be a smear of pate on the sandwich along with the pork. Or there might be a modern twist with a sauce or a topping that you wouldn’t find in a traditional Seattle banh mi.
When I’m looking for a perfect banh mi, I want the bread to have a crispy crust and a soft interior, the daikon and carrot pickles to have a sharp acidity, the cucumbers to be crunchy, and the cilantro and jalapeno accompaniments to be crisp but not overpowering. And there should be a light coating of creamy mayonnaise that ties the whole sandwich together.
Just about every banh mi is magnificent, but it’s rare to find every element I’m looking for in a single sandwich. Here’s my entirely subjective ranking of 20 places where I’ve eaten banh mi across western Washington – and another handful of places where I’ll keep searching for that Platonic ideal.
- Huong Xua, White Center. The roast pork banh mi, with crispy bits of skin and fatty meat, is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten in Seattle.
- Yummy Pho, Redmond. What makes this sandwich great is the baguette, which is always crispy and slightly warm.
- Banh Town, Greenwood. The grilled pork banh mi includes a smear of creamy pate.
- Huong Duong, Beacon Hill. You’ll get a traditional sandwich here, with flavorful grilled pork.
- Le’s Deli & Bakery, Beacon Hill. Their catfish banh mi is a real standout.
- Banh Mi Deluxe, Beacon Hill. The pork belly is outstanding, and you can add egg and avocado to make your sandwich even richer.
- Luu’s Café, Wedgwood. Their banh mi is notable for the extra veggies they pile on, along with pate.
- Saigon Bistro, International District. A great choice for a banh mi pit stop when you’re shopping at Uwajimaya.
- Pho Cyclo Café, Bellevue. My go-to banh mi joint for years, they’re still a solid choice on the Eastside.
- iSandwiches & Teriyaki, Shoreline. During my only visit, I branched out by ordering a tofu banh mi, but it was packed with flavor.
- Toast Mi, Tacoma. A good sandwich with fresh, crispy ingredients, and a slightly sweeter pork marinade.
- Ba Sa, Bainbridge Island. It’s an upscale sandwich with a price to match.
- Unphogettable, North Bend. Here’s where to stop when you need a good banh mi to fuel your hike up Mt. Si.
- Tang Food Mart, Georgetown. The banh mi was served on a fluffy roll but the crust could have been crisper.
- Green Tree, Greenwood. A traditional sandwich that wasn’t especially noteworthy.
- Cafe Banh Mi, Northgate. I find the pork here a little too sweet for my taste.
- Sizzle and Crunch, University District. The meat on my sandwich was a little bland.
- Lan Hue, International District. The vegetables on my banh mi didn’t seem particularly fresh.
- Saigon Café & Deli, Bellevue. The baguette seemed like it was a couple days old.
- The Pho Broadway, Capitol Hill. The sandwiches here aren’t as good as they were when the location was the Pho Cyclo Café.
Seattle banh mi I need to try (or try again, if it’s been a few years)
- Billiard Hoang, Columbia City
- Oh’s Sandwiches, West Seattle
- Pho Hanoi, Rainier Beach
- Pho Liu, Burien
- Q Bakery, Hillman City
- Rise & Shine, Shoreline
- Saigon Deli, International District
- Seattle Deli, International District
- Tony’s Bakery & Deli, Hillman City
- Urban Chops, Auburn
- Yeh Yeh’s Sandwiches, Lynnwood
Where are your favorite places to get Seattle banh mi? Leave a comment and let me know!
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What I Ate: The Mekong grilled pork banh mi at Toast Mi