My usual go-to banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) spot is Banh Mi Saigon on Mott Street. I used to prefer the other popular shop in Alphabet City, but then last summer, I got a severe case of food poisoning one day after eating a banh mi there. After that, I’ve been a bit wary of the place, and have been sticking to the Vietnamese sandwiches in Chinatown. Because trust me, if I got sick, something must have been terribly wrong.
Last week, I got off the N train on Canal Street with a craving for a banh mi, but for some reason, I didn’t want to go above Canal Street. Instead, I ended up wandering down Mott Street when I saw the grand opening sign for Pho So 1 advertising a ten percent discount off all of their Vietnamese sandwiches (take-out only). Banh mis, usually in the $3-$4 range, are cheap as is, but a ten percent discount on top of that was pretty ridiculous. So where some people would be scared of a discount on food in Chinatown, I readily descended into the depths of Pho So 1.
I got the House Special Banh Mi (Bánh Mì Dặc Biệt, $3.60 with the 10% discount), which consisted of sliced roast pork, Vietnamese head cheese, Vietnamese bologna, sweet crumbled BBQ roast pork, and a ton of crunchy pickled carrots and daikon on a French-style baguette. In addition, secured on each sandwich half, was a stick of cucumber and a sprig of cilantro with a thin blue rubber band. I’m still perplexed by the rubber band, but rubber band aside, the sandwich was a delicious explosion of flavors and textures; sweet and salty from the combination of meats, a little funky from the head cheese which included bits of crunchy pig ear cartilage, and crispy from the tangy pickled vegetables and crusty bread. A squirt of sriracha provided the necessary heat, but I would have preferred some fresh jalapeno slices, like at Banh Mi Saigon. Also, some more cucumber and cilantro would have been nice. And I mean integrated into the sandwich, not mysteriously held on the side by a rubber band. Seriously, what is up with the rubber bands?!
In conclusion, Pho So 1 won’t replace my stand-by banh mi shop, but it’s a tasty alternative below Canal Street. And, it’s ten percent off!
Pho So 1
11 Mott Street (betw Chatham Sq & Mosco St.)
New York, NY 10013