The elusive French-Viet Bánh Mí sandwich starts with crusty baguette, slick with homemade mayonnaise and stuffed with pate and deli meats, pickled carrots, cilantro, cucumber and fresh jalapeños (sometimes topped with a fried egg). It's everything that's delectable about Vietnamese cuisine and always hits the spot. Here are the places to score this delicious sammy, with options on both sides of the bay.
ALESIA RESTAURANT 7204 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-345-9701, alesiarestaurant.com. One of the finer dining restaurants for the casual sandwich. They offer grilled pork, grilled chicken, bbq pork and the traditional pate (served with sopressata, salami, ham) options. The barbecue pork is done char siu (Cantonese style) and should not be missed.
ALYSSA CAFE 8424 Fourth St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-578-1616. While Alyssa's offers both American and Vietnamese deli-style sandwiches, their Bánh Mí sandwiches are where it's at. Don't bother looking at the rest of the menu: Alyssa's does the Vietnamese class with pate right every time.
BAHN MI SAIGON 8730 49th St. N. Ste. 11, Pinellas Park, 727-549-9121. Fast and delicious, wax paper-wrapped, Bánh Mí sandwiches done in the authentic style. Fresh fruit and milk tea boba drinks are pretty damn good too.
BAMBOOZLE CAFE AND TEA LOUNGE 516 N. Tampa St., Tampa, 813-223-7320, Tampa, 109 N. 12th ST. Ste#1101 Tampa, 813-228-7500, bamboozlecafe.com. Tampa's Bamboozle duet is one of the best, freshest and most appealing dine-in locations for this Vietnamese lunch favorite. Enjoy their downtown location for a grilled pork or grilled chicken sandwich, or head to the laid-back locale in Channelside.
CHO LON ORIENTAL MARKET 5944 34th St. N. # 17, St Petersburg, 727-527-7511. This St. Petersburg Vietnamese market is your one-stop shop for asian ingredients. Walking in the front door, there's a massive selection of a la carte items available for purchase. For a grab-and-go, Cho Lon's Bánh Mí is a good bang for the buck.
DDRINKZ 3698 W.Waters Ave., Tampa, 813-935-6163. Located next door to Tampa's Bánh Mí king, Saigon Deli, USF Tampa locals give DDrinkz the thumbs up in terms of the sandwiches (and the sandwiches alone).
GREEN MINT ASIAN GRILL 25821 U.S. 19, Clearwater, 727-726-4608, greenmintasiangrill.com. The owners at Clearwater's loveliest and freshest Vietnamese restaurant come straight from Vietnam. They got their feet wet with food trucks doing Bánh Mí the right way, with fresh mayonnaise. Any of their available options are sure to please.
HA LONG BAY 5944 34th St. N., St. Petersburg, 727-456-8499. Authentic Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine in St. Petersburg offering an array of dining options. If you've saved room for a starter, try Ha Long's take on the Bánh Mí.
LA V 441 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, 727-820-3500, lavfusion.com. When the downtown St. Petersburg Vietnamese restaurant opened, people practically danced in the street with their boba tea in the air. The authentic, albeit more approachable, Vietnamese cuisine includes one of the area's best Bánh Mí menus.
LOTUS VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT 6575 Park Blvd., Pinellas Park, 727-549-1688. Try one of the Pinellas Park restaurant's incredible vegetarian-friendly Bánh Mí. Options range from soy sauce to deep fried tofu. The addition of bean paste adds a really nice flavor, as well.
MEKONG VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT 5944 34th St. N. #20, St. Petersburg, 727-521-3378. This Bánh Mí is a no-frills pate, hoagie, mayo and veggies-type classic. Get one as a starter, and don't forget the Pho.
NHU Y COFFEE 442 Waters Ave. W., Tampa, 813-932-7128. Located in Carrollwood, Nhu y Coffee serves up good and reasonably priced Bánh Mí sandwiches alongside strong coffee or tea. Locals love the special: veggie hoagie and tofu with pork and chicken.
OHANA CAFE 306 Orange St. N., Palm Harbor, 727-787-1234, theohanacafe.com. Palm Harbor's vegan and vegetarian cafe,offers up an tasty Bánh Mí sandwich on special from time to time. Watch their Facebook page for updates on daily specials.
RESTAURANT BT 2507 S. MacDill Ave., Tampa, 813-258-1916, restaurantbt.com. It might just be the fanciest place in town to eat this very down-to-earth sandwich. With an uptick in price comes an uptick in innovation. Here, it's all about the duck, lettuce, tomato Bánh Mí. (Also, lest we forget, the Galangal chicken, grilled pork, and delicious beef tenderloin).
SAIGON DELI 3858 W. Waters Ave., Tampa, 813-887-3888, saigon-deli.com. Saigon Deli's Bánh Mí sandwiches are spoken about mostly in gushing foodie ecstasy. Locales in the know praise the Vietnamese deli's dedication to the art form. It's a bona fide Tampa institution.
SEASONS CAFE AND BAKERY 7261 U.S. 19, Pinellas Park, 727-623-0923, seasonscafebakery.com. Right down the road from the bulk of the Vietnamese corridor of U.S. 19 is another delicious Bánh Mí and boba tea spot.
THUY CAFE 5944 34th St. N., St Petersburg, 727- 521-6406. thuycafe.com. First rule of sandwich hunting? Follow the work trucks. Every day, workers from all walks of life line up, awaiting their brown paper bag of toasty Thuy Cafe Bánh Mí sandwiches (not to mention drink carriers of fresh fruit boba teas). Also, their Sunny Side Up Bánh Mí is the perfect hangover food.