Where to: Bánh Mì Hu’o’ng Quê, a new shop in Chinatown that specializes in Vietnamese sandwiches.
Why: You’ve been missing New Saigon Sandwich, which served banh mi in this same Washington Street space for 16 years before closing in June. And you want to support a new venture in Chinatown, a neighborhood that has experienced a particularly sharp drop in business since the earliest days of the pandemic. “It’s a community that’s been hit really hard in the midst of coronavirus anxiety, and some misinformation and unfounded fear about the epidemic led to a surge in discrimination and stereotypes,” said Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu in February.
The backstory: Bánh Mì Hu’o’ng Quê's name refers to “the taste of hometown.” It is a new project from longtime restaurateur Cuong Tran, who also operates My Thai Vegan Cafe and bubble tea shop Pin Ming around the corner on Beach Street. Bánh Mì Hu’o’ng Quê is so new its bright red-and-yellow exterior is still hung with clusters of balloons; a “grand opening” banner hangs over the door. Through the window, paper sacks are filled with baguettes waiting to be stuffed with cold cuts and pâté. Tran and nephew David Phan are behind the counter. Is Tran concerned about opening a new restaurant during a pandemic? Not so much. “I used to own a sandwich shop,” he says — Cuong’s Vegan, his previous business in the Pin Ming space.
What to eat: Despite Tran’s long history with vegan and vegetarian food (he was also behind the Buddha’s Delight concepts in Chinatown and Brookline), Bánh Mì Hu’o’ng Quê's opening menu is unabashedly meaty. Banh mi come filled with pork bologna, meatballs, pork skin, and other pork products. To start, go for the gusto and get the banh mi dac biet, which comes with the works: pate and a pile-on of assorted cold cuts, along with jalapenos, cilantro, cucumber, and pickled vegetables. You’ll also find the likes of fresh rolls, rice plates (here tofu makes an appearance), and noodle dishes. Cash only.
The takeaway: It’s heartening to see a new business open in Chinatown, and Bánh Mì Hu’o’ng Quê helps fill the hole left in the banh mi-verse by New Saigon Sandwich.
696 Washington St., Chinatown, Boston, 857-225-3155