I love banh mi. Between you and I, and the ingredients between the crispy baguette, banh mi is “mi favorite” sandwich. When my husband and I visited Austin back in April, the best tour guide we could find (our awesome cousin) took us down SoCo, and when my eyes passed across that black and green sign, I knew I had a brand new mission – eat banh mi at Eat Ban Mi. I couldn’t have been more delighted to walk through the doors of:
Eat Ban Mi
1007 S Congress Ave.
Austin, TX 78704
…or could I have been? I was a little put off by the lack of customers at 6:30pm on a weekend. This was prime dining time, yet everyone was walking past as if the restaurant didn’t exist. For a moment, my natural red flag flew up – lack of customers in a restaurant is always bad news, but right on time, my sweet, diplomatic side chimed in, with it’s cute little voice, “Well, maybe not everyone likes Vietnamese food. Yeah! That’s got to be it!” I made my way up to the counter.
No one was there. Restaurant Logic – 2. Diplomatic Side – 0.
I turned around just in time to see one teenaged, droopy-eyed boy jumped up from a seat next to his friend and hopped behind the counter. I looked up at the many options on the menu, and told him that I was looking for a pork banh mi; he simply pointed up to the menu and then dazed off into the space behind me. I was left to my own resources, and it was a good thing I had eaten banh mi before! I chose “B1- Eat “Ban Mi” Special,” and paid my dues.
My husband and I walked to the side and noticed that another girl had entered the restaurant behind us. She ordered a smoothie, and after I had seen the slimy, dirty cutting board, I was happy for her. That was, of course, until the boy pulled out a half-gallon jug of red, bubbling mystery fluid and poured it into the blender, along with a browned banana. I’m certain that the “mystery fluid” was strawberry puree, but I’m not sure what the crusted fluid from a few unwashed uses back was. It was flat-out disgusting. Unfortunately, I had already paid.
To make things worse, a new woman came out from the back, and unfortunately, her blackened teeth became my new focal point. My mind shot back to Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares; I could hear Gordon telling the waiter to take a breath mint – no one wants to smell or see that before eating their food.
She put on gloves, thank the world, and proceeded to make my mild banh mi.
Mild, here at Eat Ban Mi, meant 3-4 slow strips of sriracha sauce down the length of the split bread. The pate came from a tub and was delivered with an old, crusted scoop. The pork slices had a floppy, rubber appearance. The roasted pork came from a mystery jumble of plastic wrap. The cucumber slices had a lovely brown tinge to them. The pickled vegetables were limp and dripping with their sitting liquid; they were also only shredded carrots. The cilantro looked perfectly fine. She then used the back of the knife to beat the contents of my sandwich into place.
When she handed it to me, her smile made me want to toss the sandwich right into the bin, but I had paid $8; I was at least going to get a good review written about it.
The bread, which had appeared to be stale, was actually very nice! It was crispy, as if it had been lightly toasted, but it was not toasted at all! This was so great; the toasted flavor would have thrown off the flavor of the entire sandwich. So far so good. I popped a piece of the roasted pork into my mouth. Perfection, as long as I put the fact that it was at room temperature out of my mind. The spices were great, the meat was tender, and the flavor brought me back to the first time I had tried this delicious sandwich! Score! This, however, was the last saving grace for this sandwich.
Have you ever smelled wet dog? Everything else in the sandwich had that terrible stench when I breathed out. The “pickled” vege…carrots tasted as if they were somewhere past three days old and had been sitting in water and sugar; they were soggy and held the essence of the wet dog flavor. The cilantro tasted rancid, and the floppy, rubbery pork slices were actually unsettling-ly crunchy. The cucumbers played the role of wet dog two, and the 3-4 slow strips of sriracha were not hot at all. In fact, I’m highly certain the srirach had been watered down, as it had already seeped into the bread, and all that was left was a faint pepper taste. Finally, I never did find the pate. I think I got lucky.
Long story short
I’ll never go back. I’m not sure the food inspectors have been here in a while. I can honestly say that they have inspired me to find the best bahn mi in Austin, and they are definitely not it.
- Cleanliness: 0/10
- Knowledge of staff: 1/10
- Attentiveness of staff: 0/10
- Bread: 9/10
- Pate: ?/10, possibly 0/10
- Roasted Pork: 7/10
- Pork Slices: 1/10
- Pickled Veggies: 0/10
- OVERALL: 2/10
I’m waiting for the food illness to set in.
I hear there’s another in South Austin that is supposed to be better. It might be fun to compare them. It depends on how ill I become.