I’m almost afraid to say this, for I’m afraid to jinx it. I think I might have found bánh mì perfection.
I last wrote about bánh mì in April, when I’d enjoyed a round of roast-pork sandwiches at Can Tho Fast Food in Springfield. Since then, I’ve enjoyed the bánh mì at Pho 75 in Windsor Locks (served with a side of fries and ketchup) and…not so much enjoyed the Americanized bánh mì at the uber-hip Grub Sandwich Shop in Northampton. (That last one is my fault; I should have known better.)
But here it is, folks. My new frontrunner is the brand-new Banh Mi Saigon in Hadley, Mass., on Route 9 between Northampton and Amherst.
The hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese joint opened in early June, and within a week, two unrelated friends had texted me to tell me about it. My fervor for these sandwiches clearly reaches far and wide.
Here it is:
Banh Mi Saigon’s sandwiches meet all of my criteria, as documented on the sign on the wall of the tiny space that’s no more than a lunch counter. Crisp, crackly rice-flour baguette. Fresh cilantro. Pickled carrots and daikon radish. Choice of protein (the Hadley spot offers grilled beef and chicken, BBQ pork, cold cuts and tofu.) Sliced cucumbers and jalapenos and some kind of spread – mayonnaise or butter.
But what impressed me most was the sheer size of the damn thing. Where Can Tho’s bánh mì are on the smaller side (necessitating two if you’re really hungry, or six if you’re my friend Ben,) Banh Mi Saigon’s are considerably large, like a substantial grinder. They’re absolutely stuffed with fillings – and more than reasonably priced at just under $5.
Beyond bánh mì, the restaurant also serves spring rolls and pho. Early Yelp reviews are overwhelmingly positive, which makes me happy. This place deserves to do well.
On our way out, the friendly employees eagerly asked us if we’d enjoyed our sandwiches, responding with huge, proud smiles when we told them yes. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
If you ever find yourself in the northern part of the Pioneer Valley, go. Go. Go. And pick one up for me while you’re at it.
Banh Mi Saigon, 206 Russell Street, Hadley, Mass. 413-387-0668. Facebook page