Last Friday, I took the afternoon off and finally headed to try the famed Banh Mi Boys, located near Queen St W and Spadina. I heard a lot of good things about this restaurant, so I was really excited for it!
If you’ve never had a banh mi before, as per Wikipedia:
The sandwich made from bánh mì include meat and soy fillings such as steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, spreadable pork liver pâté, pork floss, grilled chicken, chicken floss, canned sardines in tomato sauce, soft pork meatballs in tomato sauce, head cheese, fried eggs, and tofu. Accompanying vegetables include fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and pickled carrots and daikon in shredded form.
To be honest, I’ve never been a fan of banh mis despite the sheer affordability of the $2 ones from Chinatown. Something about the harder to chew baguette and the cilantro filling always throws me off, but I sucked it up to give Banh Mi Boys a taste.
Outside it looked like any other Queen Street restaurant until I got inside – there was a long lineup at lunch hour from the entrance all the way to the end of the restaurant. Basically, you line up to order and then continue lining up to the end while waiting for your food. Seating for around 16 people is available at the front of the restaurant. The restaurant has an urban hipster kind of vibe, and the decor is clean and modern.
Their menu is pretty short and simple:
It’s pretty interesting that they’ve turned a traditional, relatively no frills Vietnamese bun that retails for $2 at Chinatown to an Asian fusion baguette (Vietnamese/Korean/Chinese/etc.) with a cool vibe that sells for twice the price.
Perhaps because they actually make it fresh in front of you, it took forever (15 minutes) to get our food, so by the time it came I was starved!
First off the Kalbi Beef banh mi filled with kimchi, short ribs and asian bbq sauce and topped with cucumbers, picked carrots and cilantro. The beef was hot, and mostly tender. I didn’t find much kimchi in it, but the bbq sauce was pretty flavourful, and mostly masked the taste of the cilantro. I wished there was more beef and less carrot, though I was pretty full after half of it.
Next, the pork belly steamed bao with more or less the same toppings as the banh mi. It may have been that it cooled down a bit by the time I got to it, but it was sort of just okay. It tasted like the banh mi, except you get a bao instead of a baguette. Personally, I preferred the ones at Momofuku and Ippudo more.
Funny enough, my favourite dish were the kimchi fries! The kimchi went really well with the fries, and they included a generous serving of really good shredded pork in the mix (which was totally unexpected)! It reminded me almost of an asian fusion poutine, except without any cheese nor gravy, which are replaced with mayo, kimchi, shredded pork and onions. If I were in a potatoes kind of mood, I’d totally consider this for lunch.
Now would I go again? It’d definitely be one of my options if I were in the area in the future. Although the steam pork bun didn’t blow me away, the kalbi beef banh mi was pretty good and I loved their kimchi fries! Next time, I want to try their grilled pork bahn mi (I love lemongrass pork)!