Bánh Mì in SLC – Cafe Thao Mi
The latest stop in my quest for a local bánh mì to rival the $8 ones I had in San Francisco took me back over to the west side to Carriage Square. There are a few areas in Utah that fascinate me, as they were clearly created by the same developer with some sort of chain in mind. I grew up in Sandy and there is a nearly identical shopping area called Union Square. Same layout, with a long L-shaped row of buildings tracing one boundary of the property, a block of buildings facing it from the opposite corner bordering 4100 S and Redwood Road, and parking between them. There was more than one business I frequented in Union Square – Winchell’s Donuts chief among them – so as I drive into Carriage Square, it always feels somewhat familiar.
Cafe Thao Mi is on the south side of the square. My wife and daughter hung out in the car while I ran in. I realized on the way in that I didn’t check to make sure they do orders to go. I needn’t have worried, as their menu is a big, deli-style board on the wall. There was a group before me waiting, so I took a look around the menu.
It is huge. Although I didn’t get through the entire thing before it came time to order, there were definitely some tantalizing dishes on it that merit further investigation. The section that I was interested in is on the top left. There are at least half a dozen bánh mì variations available, all differing in the protein on the sandwich. Since my wife and I were sharing, I chose the special combination with pork roll, pate, jamon, and grilled pork and one with just pork roll. My wife and I had just been talking about how much we miss the green papaya salad and spring rolls from Out the Door, and I notice several kinds of spring rolls on the menu, but opt for just the sandwiches since we’re heading to a birthday party where there will be food.
As has been the trend thus far in Salt Lake, the sandwiches are a bargain. They are on the menu for $2.80 each, so for $6 even I’m out the door with two of them.
The bread used to make these sandwiches were smaller than those at either Hong Phat or Tay Do. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, as it means a better filling-to-bread ratio. As with both of the other sandwiches, I could have used a bit more of the pickled vegetation on mine. The meats were delicious, but I strongly preferred the complexity of the combination over the pork roll. I also really liked the pate on the sandwiches we had. It had a much bolder flavor than those at the other two bánh mì stores.
After the sandwiches were gone, I really regretted not grabbing some spring rolls. I’ll definitely be back to explore that big, beautiful menu.
As for which sandwich I preferred overall, I’m going to have to do some additional tasting. Once I get a Hong Phat and a Cafe Thao Mi next to each other and compare head-to-head, I’ll update. But before that, I’ve got one last place to hit: Indochine Vietnamese Bistro across from the U campus.