If you've never had a proper bánh mì sandwich, you're really missing out. Of course, there aren't many places offering the real deal in South Florida. Until now.
You can find some really affordable -- and genuine -- dac biet (a traditional Vietnamese bánh mì) at the newly opened 545° Bánh Mì Cafe in Davie.
Bánh mì roughly translates to "bread" in Vietnamese -- basically an exotic-sounding Vietnamese incarnation of the sandwich, a culinary testament of French colonial rule in Vietnam. A perfect blend of East meets West, it's composed equally of French and Vietnamese parts.
It starts with a whole single-serve baguette, here baked in-house in a traditional coal oven at 545 degrees for a softer, doughier version of the original. From there, the bread is split down the center and dressed with a homemade aioli -- AKA mayonnaise -- before it's stuffed with a choice of several house-made cold cuts. That includes everything from lemongrass grilled pork and chicken to a BBQ beef, fried tofu, fresh headcheese, pork pâté, and pork meatballs.
It doesn't stop there, however. At the Bánh Mì Cafe, each of these tasty takes are served with a medley of ingredients that provide the bánh mì's common denominator: a crunchy vegetable slaw made with pickled daikon radish, cucumber, shredded carrot, sliced jalapeño pepper, and whole sprigs of cilantro.
The dac biet (here called "the works") is the most popular, says owner Minh Do. The sandwich is a Vietnamese staple, a traditional blend of pâté, barbecue pork, pork roll, and headcheese.
These sandwiches -- typically sold at small bakeries or makeshift street carts in Vietnamese neighborhoods -- are endlessly customizable. But there's one thing that makes them extra special: how much they cost. Beware the bánh mì that costs more than $5.
At Bánh Mì Cafe, each sandwich sells for $4. If you buy ten, you get the 11th sandwich for free. Bread is baked several times each day, and on a busy afternoon, the cafe can pump out hundreds.
"The cost of making all this food in-house on a daily basis is high, but we go through so many that we make up for it in volume," says Do, who traveled to his native Vietnam to ensure the bread and meats are made as close to the real thing as possible. "Many of my customers travel far and buy several at a time. If they ask, we package the vegetables and meat separately, so the bread stays fresh. On our first day alone, we sold over 1,500."
The restaurant also sells a number of traditional Vietnamese specialties, from a kumquat-infused sugar cane juice to avocado and fresh fruit smoothies with tapioca pearls and a medley of ready-made lunches or plastic cups filled with a rainbow of gelatinous desserts.
"This is Vietnamese comfort food, plain and simple," says Do. "It's all about being fresh, fast, and affordable."
545° Bánh Mì Cafe is located at 6461 Stirling Road, Davie. Call 954-581-5048. Hours are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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