Banh mi on Bergen.

Imagine my elation, on a recent fall day, at seeing a post on trumpeting a new banh mi purveyor.  Imagine also that this restaurant was situated not three blocks away from my apartment, on Bergen St. just off Smith.  Given my previous adulation for banh mi, you can easily imagine me pestering friends and acquaintances with progress reports over the next three months, as the shop took shape.  No more pestering, though – Hanco is open and serving sandwiches.

I’m sure most of the people who actually were the beneficiaries of my status reports would probably rather have been talking about something else, but this is banh mi – the sandwich king of the eastern hemisphere, and one of the city’s premiere cheap eats.  Banh mi shops moving from Sunset Park northwards are still a big deal, as when Nicky’s established the banh mi’s northern perimeter the East Village.  (And, incidentally, just like it was a big deal when the Easy Street Café in Waitsfield/Warren, Vermont served a “Vietnamese sandwich” with most of the right ingredients – unlike the bizarre slab of cold liverwurst I found between the bun, the idea of banh mi seems to be spreading.)

Hanco opened Friday, according to one of their employees, and business has been quite brisk since that time (I saw what looked like a big line on Saturday, with plenty of people sipping on bubble tea – Hanco’s other specialty).  I stopped in Sunday after a run to pick up a classic sandwich ($4.25), which I toted home with all the glee of a third grader with a sackful of Halloween candy.  Tearing into the sandwich, which I had ordered spicy, I immediately noticed a few things.  First, somewhat unsurprisingly, it wasn’t spicy at all (no red sauce present, no jalapeños present).  I’m going to stare them down (hypnotism?) while saying spicy next time, a tactic which seems to work best in the non-Sunset Park banh mi shops.  Second, the usual banh mi cold toppings were augmented by slivers of a green pepper, which presented some additional crunch, and the only hint of spice in the whole sandwich.  Maybe they were outside slices of the jalapeños – they tasted somewhat similar.

Fortunately, the meat and bread were as warm as they should be, though the bread could have been a bit toastier.  I wouldn’t say that the sandwich is as big as Banh Mi So 1 or Ba Xyugen, either, but it’s larger than I remember Nicky’s being.  Also, the mixed bunch of carrot/lotus root seemed to be rather precariously placed on top of everything else, such that an un-careful bite might result in the entire blob coming off in your mouth.

Minor concerns, really – the banh mi has made it to Boerum Hill.  Hopefully this second step into the gringo-populated nabes is a harbinger of things to come.  For instance, I’d be extremely pleased to have banh mi walking distance from work, even if my friends weren’t – I’d certainly start pestering them with status reports anew.


Filed under NYC

3 responses to “Banh mi on Bergen.

  1. Anonymous

    Where do you think the *best* bahn mi, worth the schlep to far and away places is.I’m not so interested in spicy, but that combo of really crispy bread, soft, very smoky pate and bright cilantro/carrots/vinegar rocks my world.Suggestions o-great-food-blogger?

  2. The best one I had was at Ba Xyugen (I think that’s the right spelling?). Unusually for banh mi, it was drippy with something or other – oil, perhaps. Is it worth the schlep to Sunset Park? If you like banh mi, you’ve got to try it.On the other hand, if you get a fresh made one at Banh Mi So 1, that’s nearly the equal. The problem is that they’re very inconsistent – the ideal scenario is to come in when someone’s ordering about 25 sandwiches and get one, so you know they’ve done everything just then in a large quantity.I haven’t tried so many of the other places in Sunset Park, or many Chowhounds’ favorite, Saigon Banh Mi.

  3. Carrol Gardens Resident

    Warning: Hanco’s on Bergen St is insanely slow when it comes to service. Excellent food, but be prepared to wait almost an HOUR for a sandwich, which is kind of ridiculous when you consider that aside from the unique ingredients, the assembly process is no different than, say, a Subway or your corner bagel joint.

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