In the window of Banh Mi So Vietnamese restaurant on South Grand, the neon sign reads: “Best Spring Rolls in St. Louis,” a claim that’s hard to dispute.
These rice paper wrapped yummies are garden fresh and especially tasty when dipped in the house-made fish sauce. (I buy their sauce by the bottle for salads, fish, and stir-fry.) I’m drooling on the page trying to find words to describe the ones served with tilapia inserted among the vermicelli, lettuce, veggies, and mint ($5.95).
This mom-pop-son run Vietnamese diner lives up to its name, which translated means “No. 1 Sandwich Shop,” with such offerings as the Pork Meatball sandwich ($3.50). Get the extra meatball version for slightly more. The key word at the small, Vietnamese restaurant is “fresh”—many of the herbs and garnishes are grown in the backyard.
For nearly one hundred years the French occupied Vietnam and greatly influenced the country’s cooking style, ingredients and sauces. French baguettes are still used today for sandwiches, though the Vietnamese added their touch by using rice flour to make the bread lighter and crispier. The bread is used as the base for the bahn mi—a divine meat and pickled vegetable combination.
Being able to produce a flavorful Pho—the rich broth of beef, basil, lime, and peppers—is the measure of a good Vietnamese cook. Here is where Banh Mi So excels with an old family recipe that will sooth your raging dragons and warm your innards on a bad day. If you’re squeamish about saying the word “pho,” remember that it’s most often pronounced: “fuh”—though there are some regions in Vietnam that say “foe.”
It’s a long sludge out Grand to get to the restaurant, but well worth the trip. As a bonus, you can round off the meal with a Ted Drewes Frozen Custard at their old ice cream stand in the next block–but not until next Spring when it re-opens.
Banh Mi So, 4017 S. Grand. Open: Tue-Sun, 11a -10p. Take time to visit with the friendly family: son, Dewey Truong, an IT guy by profession and his father, Thomas, a former French professor in Vietnam. Mama, Chef Lynn Truong, is occupied in the kitchen. Menu here.