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Food & Drink

Best Budget Bites: $5 Bánh Mì from iPho by Saigon

Fast. Fresh. Fair-priced.

$5!
Jay Boller

The cost of things these days? Far too expensive! Inflation, supply chain, giddy price gouging from proprietors large and small—the boring factors are too numerous to count. To protect our readers, Racket just launched the Best Budget Bites series, where we’ll showcase a toothsome, wallet-friendly food item that’ll actually fill you up. Have a nomination? Hit us up: tips@racketmn.com.

What: Bánh Mì Thit—”The Regular Sandwich”
Where: iPho by Saigon, 704 University Ave. W., St. Paul
Cost: $5.35
Availability: Year-round

Remarkably, it’s tough to find a bánh mì—perhaps the king of sandwiches—that breaks the $10 threshold so many lesser bun-based meals smash through. You could make an argument that Trung Nam, the French bakery directly across University Avenue from iPho, serves up a better example of the dish, but theirs is $7 and this is Best Budget Bites, baby!

Can we talk about the outrageousness of this $5 price point? With all the leverage and scale in the world, Subway couldn’t clamp down costs enough to make its famous $5 footlong last. Yet iPho, the hole-in-the-wall restaurant that’s been serving up top-tier Vietnamese since ’97, somehow, someway makes it work.

Their bánh mì doesn’t disappoint. The flaky, crispy French roll is a mere vessel for the toppings, caving in at first chomp. From there, heaps of cilantro pop with flavor while thick planks of cucumber and jalapeños snap alongside pickled carrots and daikon. The tasty chunks of red roast pork are on the drier side, though that’s no problem as they intermingle with generous slices of pork loaf, umami-packed pâté, and slathers of mayo.

iPho offers 14 bánh mì variations, and I’m quite charmed by my choice receiving “The Regular Sandwich” designation. Nothing abnormal here, folks! Other options include: grilled chicken, tofu, mock dock, steak, shredded pork skin, meatballs, and more. The most expensive one? Just $6.95 for the “Saigon Sandwich”—red roast pork, pork loaf, grilled pork, meatballs, and pâté.

iPho uses a Subway-evoking sandwich assembly line to churn out bánh mì with maximum efficiency; you’ll be in and out in under five minutes. If you’re anywhere near University Avenue, why order fast food ever again?

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