Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ba Le

Ba Le's sign (pictured above) may seem a bit odd with the Eiffel Tower in the center, but it was the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine (France ruled Vietnam from 1853 to 1945), that brought about the classic bánh mì, a term referring to the special French-Vietnamese baguette OR, in the case of this interview, a flavorful Vietnamese sandwich which uses this type of bread.

Ba Le may not be the cleanest dining establishment, nor the one with the coolest ambiance, but it may be one of the tastiest. They throw down a delectable bánh mì on a super crunchy baguette and I savored every bite of mine.

Sandy, the girl working the register, was very nice and welcoming. She told me to "feel free to take as many pictures as I wanted" and took my order. I asked for the #1 Ba Le Special (ham, headcheese, pork roll, pâté, pickled carrots, onions, jalapeños, cilantro, daikon, fish sauce, and mayo) and was quite happy with my decision, though I did have to reposition my cilantro, which was all clumped in the middle. Not a big deal though; I'm just a nitpicker and someone who cares too much about cilantro.

After repositioning the magical - non-hallucinatory - herb, the sandwich was nearly flawless. The different meats struck the ideal balance between sweet and savory and the various accoutrements truly did enhance the flavor. Actually, there is one exception: the jalapeños. At first, they added a light amount of heat, but by the end, I realized that my mouth burned and my eyes were tearing. I will say though, that I preferred their jalapeño-based spiciness over the Sriracha-assisted heat that many American bánh mì spots use.

For ~$3 per bánh mì, Ba Le is an excellent deal. There were baguette crumbs everywhere and a strange dark sticky substance on the floor near the entrance, but I don't think that these two flaws should deter anyone from trying the scrumptious food. Oh, and make sure to ask for napkins in advance because there aren't any easily accessible ones... Back or Forth? I will be going back.

Ba Le - Uptown/Edgewater - (773)561-4424 - 5018 N. Broadway Ave, Chicago, IL 60640 - Public transportation: the Argyle stop on the Red Line or buses 22, 36, 81, and 92.

#1 Ba Le Special - $2.95

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