My friends, Suzi and Butch, are moving to Ashland, Oregon, home of a famed Shakespeare festival, quaint wineries and looming mountain ranges. (Hmm. . . St. Louis has 2 out of 3 of those; not bad for the Midwest.) For their “Final Meal” before hitting the road, the couple picked Banh Mi So #1, a hidden jewel on South Grand, with a green awning and a neon sign that reads: “Best Spring Rolls in St. Louis.”
A Mom and Pop Shop
This is a mom and pop operation, or maybe I should say a grandma and grandpa operation. Owner Thomas Truong is my age, but still grows herbs in the backyard and serves tables while his wife, Lynn, cooks up incredibly delicious food from their homeland. Their phenomenal pho, (pronounced fuh by most Vietnamese and foe by locals), is a blend of bone-flavored broth and fresh vegetables, a combination that’s good for what ails you.
The Ultimate Sandwich
The irresistible banh mi, (meaning sandwich), is the inspiration for the restaurant’s name. Translated it means: “No. 1 Sandwich.” Their double meatball version is my favorite sandwich on the planet, next to maybe a BLT. I usually split it with someone at the table with whom I want to share my love of this culinary masterpiece swaddled in a fresh, soft-centered, French baguette.
The sandwich reflects the century-long occupation of Vietnam by the French and the frequent mashup of the two food cultures.
Take Home a Bottle of Nuoc Mam
I buy the house sauce (nuoc mam) by the bottle and it commands a place of respect among my other refrigerator condiments. Anytime I want to spike the flavor of a salad dressing, a sauce or casserole, I add a bit of Chef Lynn’s nuoc mam. Last night the broccoli benefited from a jolt.
Hanging on the wall are two photos, that include the Truong family along with my grandson, Andrew, and me; another is of Robin and Sen. Claire McCaskill. All were taken years ago so you might not recognize me; I was younger and thinner at the time. 🙂
When we finished our meal, I said to my friends, “Ted Drewes, anyone?” Smiles around the table. The frozen custard hotspot is just two blocks down the street on South Grand. We drove into the darkened parklot and paused. Drats! The place was closed for the season. I waved goodbye to my friends and suggested that a return to St. Louis for a banh mi and a Ted Drewes custard would be well worth the effort.