Where to Eat the Best Banh Mi in (and Around) Boston

By Jacqueline Cain
05/17/2021
Bánh Mì Ơi

A good sandwich requires tasty bread, flavorful condiments, and contrasting textures, so it’s no wonder the banh mi is so popular: This French-influenced staple of Vietnamese cuisine has it all. Here are five crunchy, savory, and crave-able banh mi sandwiches to try around Boston.

Pho Viet's

Longtime hidden gem Pho Viet’s recently moved from a stall inside Allston’s Super 88 Market into a larger location just up Comm. Ave. in Brookline, and there’s a second outpost in Newton Centre. The third-generation family business makes excellent fresh rolls, bún (vermicelli) with lemongrass pork, and namesake noodle soups—the sub-$7 sandwiches, however, are the reason it has such a devoted following, as years of “Best Banh Mi in Boston” awards attest. Springy sliced ham and terrine, or tender grilled meats are the flavorful choices, and either protein style is well-matched with the crunchy vegetables and the crusty roll.

Ba Le

This busy Boston shop has set the regional standard for banh mi for more than two decades. Ba Le has a full menu of traditional dishes, including a variety of “banh,” or Vietnamese pastries and snacks. Most folks vying to order are here for banh mi, though—BBQ beef and combination pork are popular favorites. There’s no wrong choice, because every sandwich is enriched with a house-whipped mayo, umami fish sauce, and scallion oil, contained in a crispy baguette baked fresh that morning. Traditionally an order-in-person kind of place, customers can also call in phone orders for pickup.

Cicada Coffee Bar

A unique brick building just outside of Central Square is now home to a Vietnamese coffee shop, where pescatarian and vegetarian fare complements a range of enticing iced and hot drinks. A rich and creamy smoked avocado pâté creatively (and deliciously) stands in for the more traditional liver paste on sandwiches like Banh Mi Sai Gon, layered with chả cá (fish terrine), a cucumber spear, and bountiful fresh herbs; and Banh Mi Vegan with custard-soft roasted eggplant. The space is bedecked in plants and restored vintage furniture and there’s a welcoming “zen garden” patio, so while banh mi are great to-go, Cicada Coffee Bar is the kind of place you’ll want to linger.

Nightshade Noodle Bar

Bondir and Clio alumna Rachel Miller isn’t Vietnamese herself, but the chef loves the cuisine’s herbaceous, fruity, seafood-y flavors, and her ode to them is right at home in Lynn, a North Shore city with a large Viet diaspora. Nightshade Noodle Bar showcases the chef’s fine-dining background with plenty of handmade noodle dishes layered with texture—but it also makes an excellent pre-beach picnic run. Along with a lemongrass-scented lobster roll and crispy fried clam bellies, there’s a rotating selection of banh mi built on locally baked rolls, such as a fusion Falafel with pickled green tomatoes; and a seasonal favorite Fried Chili-Ranch Soft Shell Crab banh mi with Thai basil aioli.

Bánh Mì Ơi

Yeanie Bach and Phi Pham, the couple behind this West Roxbury destination, originally planned to open a coffeehouse showcasing Vietnamese beans and brews filtered in a traditional metal phin. They first found this longtime sandwich shop location, though, so they borrowed the recipes from the banh mi spot that Bach’s mother once ran in Saigon and opened Bánh Mì Ơi in July 2020. Here you’ll find several different sandwiches, including The Classic, with thin-sliced Viet-style bologna; one with Crispy Fried Shrimp; and a vegetarian version with shaved Lemongrass Seitan. Luckily for all of us, the coffeehouse dream has also been realized, and banh mi is also on the menu: Phinista cafe debuted in the Fenway neighborhood in August.

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