In December of 2011, Banh Mi Boys opened up and were, lets face it, overwhelmed. Far too popular for them to keep up they shut their doors and regrouped. A complete overhaul of service and space occurred. They reopened a couple months later and were off to the races. As popular again they’ve tidied up the store and tightened up their chops.
The brainchild of David, Peter and Phillip Chau, the brothers come by their abilities honestly. Their parents opened the very successful Nguyen Huong Food Co. back in 1986 and now have multiple locations in the GTA as well as their own bakery. The boys plan was to, for all intents and purposes, serve food truck foods out of a store. Popular mobile kitchen goodies like Korean Tacos and nouveau Vietnamese Subs are selling like hot cakes from curbside vendors south of the boarder. They wanted to bring that same food flair to the Big Smoke. From their little sandwich shop on Queen St. W they’re doing banh mi, tacos and bao along with fries and salad. All with their unique spin on things.
The renovation has given the boys a spiffy, east meets west, old meets new interior. Barn board, mixed with Formica meets Oriental lanterns and technology. Splashy paint on some walls, reclaimend wood on others. Menus on flat screens are there too but the best thing they got out of the reno was tables. Once a grab n go place it now has seating for 20 or so. There’s a main kitchen in the back and an open kitchen/prep station at the back of the long, thin dining room.
Those kitchens are where all the magic happens. Everything is made in house. All sauces, breads, condiments and proteins are made on site. Heck they even have their own little smoker. Slightly bigger than a mini fridge it’s perfect for a college dorm room.
So lets get a look at these goodies.
Perhaps my least favourite thing first on menu is the Jicima/Papaya salad. It’s very good but for me, nothing all that mind blowing. I actually think it would be amazing as a sandwich condiment. It has a lot more going on than do chua. It comes with an Asian salad dressing and I think I probably used too much of it. I really kinda drowned it. I’d order it again but as I said, it’s not my favourite thing here.
The Kimchi Fries were simply fantastic. Fries covered in mayo, pulled pork and kimchi. Garnished with green onion. The whole dish was great and really did scream drunk food. Broken down I found that pulled pork to be among the best smoked pork shoulder anywhere. Also, the fries on their own are some of the best I've had in the city. If not anywhere. They held up very well (both in terms of flavour and crispiness) to the components above and had a great potato taste. The kimchi tasted pretty much exactly like what my friend's Korean wife's family makes. I have 2 small complaints though. First off, the kimchi was cold. By the time I got half way through it had warmed to room temp and I much preferred it then. Perhaps that was because I was there right after they opened it was fresh out of the fridge. Also, I'd like to have seen a touch more pulled pork on them. Not a whole lot more would be needed but the smoky, porky flavour could've used just a bit more punch.
The 5 Spice Pork Belly Banh Mi was nicely packed with all the requisite goodies. Cucumber, cilantro, and do chua. They add sliced pickled radish and a nice helping of the pig tummy. I told the girl to make it (spice level) like she'd have it since she likes hot stuff. She gave me "Hot" and it was perfect. I could handle hotter but this was the right heat level. Enough to light up the taste buds without drowning anything out. On it's own the pig tummy was fabulous. Tender, tasty and not overwhelmed with the 5 Spice. Complimented and allowed the porky goodness to shine.
The Squid Taco is worthy of it’s praise. A friend and fellow food nut is totally in love with this and it’s easy to see why. The squid rings are perfectly cooked. Breaded with panko they’re deep fried to the point of golden brown but not so much that the meat turns into tires. Topped with do chua, cabbage and cilantro, then add some minced Thai chilies it’s incredible. Don’t let the picture fool you. There’s squid rings under that there vegetation. Plenty of it too.
The Grilled Chicken Taco is, so far, definitely my favourtie thing on the menu. Grilled and sauced chicken that’s totally tasty. I think the tortilla was flavourful enough but very nicely grilled and somewhat hearty. The meat was saucy (some say too saucy) which, as I've said before, is right in my wheelhouse. The vegetation on it was a good compliment of taste, temps and textures. I could eat a hundred of these.
The Fried Chicken Bao is often cited as a favourite of people and there’s good reason. It’s awesome. While bao isn’t exactly my favourite bread it’s okay but what they stuff inside is what makes this sandwich. It’s dressed much like the banh mi so you know that’s a huge plus. The big thing is, one of the best pieces of fried chicken stars. A thin piece of breast meat in a fabulous breading is deep fried to perfection. The chicken is nice and juicy while the breading gets a golden brown, crunchiness. Simply fantastic.
So there you have it folks. A great little sandwich shop churning out some cool twists on traditional favourites.
You can find Banh Mi Boys Sandwich Shop at 392 Queen St. W. in Toronto.
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You can also find them on the web, facebook and Twitter.
Well that’s all for now folks. See ya next time in the food court.