Don’t call it a comeback.
Around the corner from Dinkytown’s Target, a robin’s egg blue sign juts merrily from the side of an unassuming red brick building announcing the valiant return of a much-loved banh mi joint. After shutting their doors in 2016 to make way for the Hub Apartments, Stadium Village favorite Bun Mi left a baguette-sized hole in the hearts of their many loyal patrons.
Fortunately for their fans, they’re back in a new location where they’ve charmingly rebranded as Bánh Appétit.
After dropping hints on their Facebook page at the beginning of the year, Bánh Appétit had their soft-open this past weekend, and your banh mi-loving author wrangled up some friends to check it out. Armed with the knowledge that ravenous patrons have been buying them out of bread in previous days, we stopped by Saturday afternoon in search of bright flavors to break up a blustery day.
We were not disappointed.
Once we entered the doors, we were greeted with warm, sticky-pork smells and a line already forming before us. The interior is cozy with a handful of small tables plus a larger one for groups and a couch for those who prefer to lounge while eating. The light gray walls are sparsely decorated, but everyone seemed too focused on their food to care about decor.
People were buzzing, and the excitement of their return was palpable and electric. Nearly every table was full as we dined, with new groups quickly rotating in to fill those recently emptied. The place was poppin’.
As for food, the menu didn’t overwhelm but had enough options to warrant many return trips to try each. With banh mis (or wraps, if you please) ranging in price from $7.25 to $7.95, I wasn’t sure what portion size to expect, but our entire table was surprised and delighted by their heartiness, with all of us taking home leftovers.
Between the three of us, we tried the Special, a Lemongrass Chicken, and the Thai Chicken Curry. The Special will make a great hangover meal but is great at any hour, and features grilled pork, hard scrambled egg, and a hearty smear of rich, grainy pâté. Lemongrass Chicken would make a great “entry-level” banh mi for those new to these sandwiches thanks to its subtle lemongrass flavor. Our favorite was the Thai Chicken Curry. Deeply comforting and warmly spiced with a slight sweetness, this was perfect for our crummy, gray day.
All were served on lovely baguettes with a nice chew to the outside and a soft interior, the golden ticket that makes banh mis so special. They arrived topped with the standard fixin’s of mayo, pickled daikon and carrot strings, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeño, and green onion.
I made sure to grab a combo for $1.99 extra to add a drink and panko fries I saw folks raving about. Sure as heck, they were perfectly crispy, well-seasoned, and came with zingy, spicy mayo for dipping.
For those seeking something a little healthier, Bánh Appétit’s vermicelli noodle salad with the perfectly lacquered, savory grilled pork was equally tasty despite having more lettuce than we expected. We added eggrolls (crispy exterior, soft noodles tumbling from the interior) for more texture.
The spring rolls we ordered featured the same thick chunks of luscious pork, and although the potstickers were pretty standard, they satisfied because their crunch was ideal, and the porky, scallion-y flavor was familiar in an expected way. Other sides available include both cream cheese wontons and crab rangoons, and teriyaki wings.
Although our group focused on meat-heavy dishes, Bánh Appétit does accommodate vegetarians as well. They serve a fried tofu with pepper and onion in banh mi or wrap form, and the salad can be prepared with a mock duck curry. Looking for a caffeine fix? They offer pearl milk tea, Thai iced tea, and beloved rocket-fuel of those in the know, Vietnamese iced coffee.
The hype is very real for this place, but don’t take our word for it. Check them out Monday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. to taste for yourself.
511 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis