Banh Mi in Williamsburg
I stopped by 172 Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg yesterday to see how Banh Mi's construction is going (the space used to be a Polish butcher shop). Looks nice from the outside, but the paper over the windows is so throughly taped up, I couldn't see inside. No one seemed to be working, so maybe they're waiting for permits or some other bureaucratic nonsense.
Even now, Williamsburg has the newly opened banh mi shop Nha Toi, as well as Bep, the pop-up, Mondays-only restaurant that sets up shop inside the Simple Cafe, serving a very nice banh mi. The neighborhood has gone from zero to 60 in the Vietnamese sandwich department.
In fact, to point out the obvious, banh mi (and their Cambodian ilk at Num Pang) are absolutely everywhere now. You used to have to go to Manhattan's Chinatown or Brooklyn's Sunset Park to get a good banh mi. Now we have Curry Hill's Baoguette and their plans for Manhattan-wide domination (okay, two more locations planned), newly opened An Choi, a new branch of Hanco's in Park Slope and Xie Xie, an Asian sandwiches and street food shop that will open at Nineth Avenue and 45th Street in about a month.
Surely the recession is behind all this sandwich-love. A sandwich shop is one of the only business models that looks really good right now. After all, an overpriced banh mi is still likely to be under $10. As far as trends go, a banh mi explosion is very, very welcome. But honestly, although I like having more sandwiches to choose from, my heart still belongs to Ba Xuyen.