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Let’s be clear: You don’t go to Ba Le Sandwich on South Federal Boulevard for the atmosphere. (The stripped-down, mini-market space has just three tables and a huge, mirrored wall.) And you don’t go for
the service either. (The perfunctory staff is efficient but short on niceties.) What you go for are the banh mi.
These $3 Vietnamese sandwiches are built just as they should be: on sliced-open, six-inch lengths of toasty, house-made French bread. Check the sandwich board, and choose one of 15 fillings—from classic Vietnamese barbecue pork (my favorite) to sardines or shrimp paste (which is often sold out).
Your baguette comes stuffed accordingly and bolstered with crunchy pickled carrots and daikon radish, a tangle of fresh cilantro, and sliced-on-the-bias cucumber and jalapeños (beware the seeds). Each bite is flush with vegetal crunch, airy starch, and meaty heft. Add squirts of Sriracha at will.
Even better than straight Sriracha is the dipping sauce that comes with the spring rolls. Order a round of the fat rice paper bundles stuffed with herbs, rice noodles, pork, and shrimp—and find yourself with an excellent nuoc cham sauce. Use any extra to dip your banh mi.
Let me say it again: These weighty, freshly made sandwiches ring in at just $3 apiece. That’s lunch for less than the price of most lattes. 1044 S. Federal Blvd., 303-922-2129
#2 Vietnamese Barbecue Pork $3
#3 Special Combo $3
#8 Pork Barbecue Meatball $3
#11 Pâté $3
#15 Sardine $3
Spring Rolls $3