Friday, May 25, 2012

Toronto: Banh Mi Boys Sandwich Shop

oh boy
:Queen West:

I'm in a bad place.  Everyone in life will be where I am right now, sooner or later, or sadly, perhaps you already have.  That is, in fact, the only uncertainty life gives us: you don't know when sh*t will hit the fan but you do know that you can handle it.  And life's easier to manage when you have great friends.  Not the riff raff that latches onto you along the way, but the ones that walk with you.  They're the ones that make you laugh, and make you eat.  I've said it once before, but food is sometimes more than necessary, it's often therapy.

Minnie and I headed to Banh Mi Boys yesterday after a ridiculous walk around the city.  I haven't been hungry for days but when I walked in I forgot about my worries and focused on the menu.  The shop is shiny and the faces are smiley. 

The menu is easy, three types of eats: taco, banh mi (bread in Vietnamese), and steamed bao (I call bao 'pillow bum bread' because they're billowy like a pillow and rounded like a bum).

BMB basically suped up a cheap and common snack by keeping the frame, but improving the engine.  Vietnamese subs have been a long staple of the frugal, the poor, the wealthy, the's an easy dirty good meal.  They always come in the most AMAZING bread - soft and fluffy bread encased by a crunchy, chewy crust.  BMB simply took out the questionable (but tasty) meats and replaced them with braised beef cheek, five spice pork belly, kalbi beef, duck confit, and tofu.  And in doing that, I think they introduced banh mi to a whole new audience.  That might explain why it was an overnight sensation.  And I do mean sensation because I heard the line-ups were bonkers.

Minnie and I didn't have to wait.  Nor did we have to take it to go.  We beat the rush and got a seat.  Between the two of us we ordered kimchi fires, two kalbi beef tacos, a pork belly banh mi and a beef cheek steamed bun.  The best part, it's cheap - all that for about $25.

Minnie's favourite was the beef cheek bao:

Mine was the kimchi fries:

kimchi fries
garlicky mayo, spicy pulled pork, kimchi and green onions...dirrtttyyyy

P.S. BMB should note on the menu that the kimchi fries are NOT vegetarian. Not for me, but for the plant-eaters out there who order it and then can't eat it.  Such was the case for the three hipsters next to us.

kalbi beef taco
I only had two issues, both with the taco.  The first is that it's more like a roti shell.  I think they should call it roti, but I feel like they don't care what I think.  With the success they've had, why mess with it right?  The other issue involved the kalbi.  As an expert in Korean food, I have to say the kalbi was really good save and except how chewy it was.  Korean mommies know that you need quality beef marinated in their own family's secret sauce until it's ridiculously tender.  But nailing the flavour of kalbi is hard in-and-of-itself so I was impressed.  The kimchi was another surprise.  It tasted right (but salty). 
five spice pork belly banh mi
braised pork belly, pickled radish
All the meats we had were perfectly seasoned and really, really, really good.  Especially my pork belly - fatty, tender, and tasty. 

During the fifteen minutes it took to eat, I smiled.  All my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks like they're here to stay.  Hey, at least I'm eating again.

Banh Mi Boys on Urbanspoon


  1. Oops, saw your website for too late. We were just in Toronto last summer and this is the only decent place I had in Toronto. Everything else was a little bland for me. It's good but it's not heavenly great. Heading to Montreal again this summer and definitely going to try La Quartier General this time. I'm from NYC and surely can exchange some food experience.

    1. Leer's World...I haven't been to La Quartier in a while, hope it's still good. La Salle a Manger is solid as is Le Meac, especially their late night menu. I also like tuck shop, a bit out of the way but it keeps getting consistent positive feedback. Montreal is a great city in the summer...humid like NYC, but full of fab eats.

  2. LeMeac is awesome! We constantly visited whenever we are in Montreal. I'm going to try the late night dinner this time since I was rejected last time. I thought no one is going to eat at 10pm and I was so wrong! Have you ever tried La Chronique? It's definitely an unique experience. What makes Montreal much awesome than NYC in the summer is,,,,no stinky streets! OMG, the whole NYC smells like a big waste landfill. I can't wait to get a relaxed week in Montreal as every summer.

    1. It seems we have similar opinions - because I love Le Meac too. I don't usually eat at any of the hot spots (Au Pied, Joe Beef) because I like the dive-y places. Le Cartet or Lawrence (for weekend brunch) and tuck shop (for dinner) are also a few of my faves. Montreal also has the best Columbian empanadas I've had in Canada...or really anywhere. It's a local joint ('s been around for decades.


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