Why is it that farmers’ markets always feel the farthest away in February? No matter what the groundhog says, we’re only weeks away from strolling in the sunshine for fresh, local fare. But February is definitely a gut-wrenching gauntlet of sizable snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.
Thankfully, Banh Mi Eatery in Lafayette has your palate covered no matter what season you like. (Can’t get enough of the cold-weather stuff? Right now they’re offering pho — a Vietnamese soup with noodles and your choice of protein.)
Green Leaf has been a Vietnamese cuisine fixture in West Lafayette for more than a decade. Last year, its owners refocused their efforts on a 4th Street building across the river in Lafayette that they owned to specialize in selling the signature sandwich of Vietnamese cuisine. Right there in the name, it’s known as a banh mi. Translated from Vietnamese for “bread,” the sandwich is put together like a po’ boy with oh-so-much-more punch and crunch.
Popularized as Saigon street food during the 1950s and ported over to the U.S. by Vietnamese immigrants, a traditional banh mi includes marinated pork, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, pâté (a liver-based paste), carrots, cucumbers and daikon radish (all pickled) and mayonnaise. Those ingredients (and a few other spices) are generally — and generously — layered on a baguette roll to create a sandwich that offers substantial structure and a savory swirl of flavors.
Banh Mi Eatery serves up the sandwich like so and in many other permutations — including chicken and tofu options. No matter your preference, it’s a satisfying experience. The bread has the perfect crustiness without creating a crumbly mess or dishearteningly dry texture. Vegetables come in straw-sized cuts that stretch out across the entire sandwich. There’s no skimping on pâté or condiments. Jalapeños are few, but mighty. (I picked up rebound spice several hours after a recent lunch.)
I also sprung for a couple of the side items … “side” being relative term when it comes to the coleslaw anyway. A deliciously spiky and vibrant complement to the sandwich, the “regular” size came in at a generous salad portion. Plus, “egg roll” is actually plural — modestly sized, but you still get two.
Again: If soup season’s pending end saddens you, Banh Mi Eatery is currently serving eight different pho options, as well as several meat-and-rice dishes. On the beverage side, you can choose from cold brew coffee, Vietnamese coffee, soda, iced tea and multiple flavors of milk or fruit teas (to which you can add extras like lychee jelly or tapioca bubbles). The coconut milk tea offers an airy, lightly sweet delight that was neither too syrupy or heavy.
Coupled with Banh Mi Eatery’s welcoming bright-orange pop-chic décor, it offers a belly-filling burst of freshness that can brighten up the winter months … or whenever you happen to visit.
Rob Ford is Tipmont and Wintek's communication director, a role he's held since 2015.
Rob has a bachelor's and a master's in Communication from Purdue University. He lives in West Lafayette with his wife and three children and has a life-sized Yoda statue in his office. Away from the office, you’ll find Rob working on his golf swing, jump shot, or hope for a Purdue basketball national title – all futile endeavors.