The banh mi is one of the simplest, finest examples of culinary fusion: French baguettes (introduced to Vietnam during the colonial period) meet Vietnamese additions of (usually) spiced or cured pork, picked daikon and carrots, as well as cilantro. The resulting combination hits all of the right elements required for a perfect sandwich – a chewy crunch from the baguette, savory fats from the protein(s), acidity from the pickled vegetables and earthiness from cilantro.
There are a number of satisfying banh mis to be tried all around Kansas City. Many are available for just a few dollars at walk-up counters at the Vietnamese groceries dotting Columbus Park, or at Vietnamese cafés in the suburbs. Here are three Banh mi variations worth the drive, including both a classic style as well as two exciting takes on this great sandwich.
Banh mis can incorporate just about any kind of meat, though most often it is a pork product. At Hank Charcuterie in Lawrence, Kansas, chef Vaughn Good delivers a smoked pork cheek and combines that with a chicken patê, housemade kimchi (more typically Korean than Vietnamese) and mayo on a crusty French bread. It is one of the most protein-heavy offerings out here, and one serving is quite adequate for two people. Hank’s banh mi is not available every day, so make sure to check the shop’s Facebook or Instagram to see what the daily offerings are.
Hank Charcuterie, 1900 Massachusetts, Lawrence, Kansas, 785.832.8688, hankmeats.com
For a more “traditional,” yet no less delicious banh mi (Bánh mì in Vietnamese actually just means “bread”), try IPho tower. Guests select their protein – egg, grilled beef, pork, chicken, tofu or Vietnamese meatloaf are all offered – and the sandwich is finished with perfectly tangy pickled carrots, jalapeños, cucumbers and cilantro. The bread is chewy, the meat hearty and the pickles sweet and tangy. IPho Tower has two locations, but the Broadway location also has the benefit of late hours, because who doesn't love a banh mi as a late-night snacks?
IPho Tower, 3623 Broadway, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.531.2353, or 1447 Independence Ave #135, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.842.2000, iphotower.com
Pigwich, a sandwich shop located inside of a shipping container connected to the back of the Local Pig butcher shop in the East Bottoms, is a sandwich specialist, offering just four sandwiches and a regular special each day of the week. The shop’s banh mi (a daily feature) is exceptional. The scent of the sandwich alone is intoxicating, and the soft pork meatballs are spiced perfectly and melt in your mouth. The flavors are heightened by the addition of sriracha mayo, pickled carrots and the requisite cilantro. The spot is typically full, often with firefighters and railroad workers, which always clues you in that you’ve made the right choice for a hearty and satisfying meal.
Pigwich, 2618 Guinotte Ave., East Bottoms, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.200.1639, facebook.com/pigwich
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