Is there a restaurant in your town you so love, you could eat their food everyday for the rest of the year? That’s a big question for me, considering all the fine food places we have in the St. Louis area.
But I’ve narrowed it down to one. It’s a mere hole in the wall, on South Grand, where I’ve been eating for nearly 20 years. It’s Banh Mi So #1, which means #1 sandwich shop in Vietnamese.
A Pandemic Adjustment That Worked
I feared that the mom and pop operation would go out of business during the pandemic. But the pair (Chef Lynn Throng in the kitchen and husband, Thomas, waiting tables) hung on. They wisely reconfigured, removing all the indoor seating and going strictly with carry out.
It was a fortuitous arrangement, since Thomas, whose about my age, was the only one waiting and bussing tables. I’d love to sit down and enjoy a meal again, but I understand the new modus operandi works better for the couple.
So Much Goodness in One Little Kitchen
When I call in my order. I say, “This is Jean,” and Lynn replies, “You want the usual?” Most often I do. She’s committed my order to memory. I select the Tilapia Spring Rolls, pieces of fried fish tucked within vegetable rolls. Though the Goi Cuon Chat (mung bean version) is also heavenly.
All Kind of Amazing!
A Sandwich to Write Home About
Their Double Meatball Banh Mi is my favorite sandwich on the planet, next to maybe a BLT. Or as Miracle Max famously said, “True love is the greatest thing in the world—except for a nice MLT” (mutton, lettuce, and tomato).
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, and served with a dipping sauce good enough to drink. The sandwich reflects the century-long occupation of Vietnam by the French and the frequent mashup of the two food cultures.
I have a special fondness for the Salmon Curry and the Bun Bao Xao (a sautéed beef-noodle dish served over vermicelli rice noodles). And, of course, the signature Vietnamese soup Beef Pho (pronounced foe by locals, but fuh by most Vietnamese.)
Ahh. . . The Sauce
I keep a bottle of Lynn’s Nuoc Mam (fish sauce) in my refrigerator, as does Robin. I even deliver it to family and friends in Rolla, who have become fans of the tasty condiment. Anytime I want to spike the flavor of a salad dressing, a sauce, or casserole, I add a bit.
A Must Try
I’ve never had a food item named after our family, but the 3rd item on the menu below is called the Carnahan Spring Roll.
“How many of those did you eat to get that designation?” a friend asked. “I’ve lost count,” I said, “but I’ve never grown tired of them.”
If you want to give the place a try, be sure to place your carry out order well in advance. Lynn will answer the phone. The hours are a little irregular. But mostly they’re open everyday but Monday. Once when I needed to pick up an order about an hour after closing, Lynn said. “Okay, but I only do this for you.”
Banh Mi So #1 is easy to miss. So look for the green awning and the red and green neon signs in the window. If you need dessert afterwards, Ted Drewes on Grand is just a few block up the street.
Kitchen Note: I made the Spring Rolls, Beef Bun and the Pork Meatball Banh Mi for a lunch at the farm a few years ago. I was surprise at how good it turned out. And how easy it came together.