After sampling a number of banh mi sandwiches around town, namely at Bánh Mì Mỹ Tho, Ba Le French Sandwich & Bakery, and Bánh Mì & Chè Cali, I concluded that in the San Gabriel Valley, inexplicably hefty baguettes are the main obstacle keeping good banh mi and from being truly stellar. The bread is “far too large and much, much too thick,” I wrote a few months back. “A proper Vietnamese baguette is made entirely of rice flour, which yields a crisp exterior and hollow center, thus allowing the fixins to really shine through.”
While scoping out the Chinese banquet scene in Chinatown on a Sunday afternoon, I finally encountered a baguette worth writing about. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was the closest to perfection I’ve encountered here in Los Angeles.
I found my ideal baguette specimen at a teeny tiny hole in the wall called Bánh Mì Mỹ Dung—pronounced “Me? Yoong.” The bread here is made fresh everyday by the shop’s proprietress. If the baguettes aren’t piping hot when a customer rolls in, the proprietress, also the head sandwich maker, takes an extra minute or two to carefully toast it in the oven. This small but important detail really makes a world of difference taste-wise and texturally.
The banh mi‘s innards weren’t as noteworthy as the baguette holding them together—the various meats and pickled veggies were on par with other Vietnamese sandwich shops.
The Astronomer and I split a banh mi nem nuong ($2 – sweet grilled pork patties) on our visit. Our order was actually for a banh mi thit nuong (grilled lemongrass pork), but the woman behind the counter most likely gave us what she had on hand. We didn’t mind. That’s the way it goes sometimes when you’re dealing with Mom and Pop in an itty bitty shop.
Bánh Mì Mỹ Dung
314 Ord Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012