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It’s all French to [Bánh] mì

Happy Birthday to my best friend (and me too because, you know, we’re twins)!

A few days ago, I celebrated my 27th birthday with my best friend. On my birthday, I assume super human powers, where calories fall to the wayside and I can eat whatever I want. Traditionally, Krissie and I go all out, selecting one Boston restaurant to get whatever ultimate chef’s tasting menu they can offer. This year, we went to Bistro Du Midi, which was out of this world phenomenal. It was such a memorable and special dinner. I couldn’t have imagined bettered. That being said, I took that night off and left my camera at home so I could fully enjoy myself.

In spite of knowing about the onslaught of food coming that night, I decided I couldn’t forego the quick Vietnamese subs from the Bon Me food truck. I tried to evade it, but it intercepted me with its savory scents on my way to the parking garage. Damn it. Of all the Asian cuisines showcased in Boston, I probably eat Vietnamese food the least. After a very sad experience with pho, star anise is one of my natural born enemies as it turns out, it should come as no surprise when I detected its slight presence in my pho broth, I swore off pho for good. Such a shame since bottomless bowls of noodles sound like heaven on earth. Occasionally, I’ll have a hankering for a spring roll, but that’s usually when I’m not sober and am feeling like a true fatty mcfatterson. This past month, I’ve been craving bánh mì sandwiches often. For anyone who is unfamiliar with this wonderful treat, it is grilled meat (my favorite is pork), with mayo, pate (YUM!), whole cilantro sprigs, fish sauce, pickled carrots and daikon, and hots.

Miso braised pulled pork sandwich from the Bon Me Yellow Truck!

All of these ingredients are encased in a very light baguette that has a very nice crisp outside and a soft inside. This translates into it will flake all over you as you eat it. Be ready with a solid leaning sandwich stance, lest you fall victim to the bread crumb storm.

I love this sandwich not just for its rich flavors and wonderfully tart carrot/daikon mix, but also for its history. The sandwich showcases some of Vietnam’s French roots, and not that I’m necessarily all for colonization, I am for food fusion. I have a deep appreciation for flavors that change because of the times. Someone was innovative enough to think, let me mix what I have locally and throw some French lipids on it (pâté and mayo) and serve on a delicate French influenced baguette. Or maybe it was someone who had all this food on its way out and figured, Oh fine I’ll just throw it all on a piece of bread and deal with it. Whatever the case may be, thank you! You’ve given me the one Vietnamese dish that makes my heart sing.

P.S. Go ahead and let this post title sink in. Yes? Yes? I’m basking in my cleverness.

Cafeteria Boston

Occasionally, I’ll hear the faint jingle of the ice cream truck luring children to their ultimate ice cream demise.  I know mine used to be the chocolate dipped chocolate cone.  Long gone seem those days I would chase that truck down the street, waving my dollar in the air, pigtails bouncing to the pace of my quick strides. Like so many people I talk food with, I have such warm and wonderful childhood memories associated with these “kid” foods. Everyone has something. For me that something is traditional Thanksgiving foods, my grandpa’s spaghetti and meatballs, and broiled t-bone lamb chops. Interesting mix, I know.

Cafeteria Boston has capitalized on this principle. It’s called Cafeteria and although it boasts “Tray Chic” dining, I’d probably go on a limb and say it’s a little more tray than chic. The interior has a modern feel but the food options transport me back to my school cafeteria or my little Long Island home dinner table.

Hello Aurora and Cynthia!

Meatloaf – all natural grass-fed beef, mashed potatoes, spicy ketchup glaze

spaghetti and meatballs, tomato sauce and parmesan cheese

grilled fontina, mozzarella, tomato, arugula served with tomato soup

I give the folks at Cafeteria brownie points for creativity. That being said, I was not blown away by their food. They have some really yummy bites — I have a real soft spot for tomato soup and grilled cheese so I’ll never diss that! However, I couldn’t eat all of Cynthia’s meal. My meatballs were a huge letdown. I wanted to feel like I was eating my Grandpa’s meatballs and spaghetti, which already is a high bar that’s been set. But I felt that experience is something Cafeteria is trying to deliver. The sauce was simple and nice, but the meatballs were so unbelieveably dry that even the tomato sauce couldn’t prevent my mouth from feeling the same way. I’m willing to forgive based on my judgment of this one dish, plus the nice orangy Lunch Lady was a nice cleansing way to wash it all down.

Cafeteria Boston
279a Newbury St
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 536-2233


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