Craving a banh mi sandwich? You can now get one at Hue Restaurant, 2699 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.
In fact, guests can choose from five delectable variations, including a vegetarian version featuring lemongrass marinated veggie meat made from wheat and soy and piled high with all the sweet, salty crunchy fixins.
The sandwiches, which have softly debuted at the restaurant over the past few months, are served on a French-style baguette that offers similar qualities to the traditional Vietnamese-style roll, including the soft, slightly fluffy interior that lines a memorable banh mi.
Interestingly enough, it was the search for the perfect bread that kept Hue owners Carina (Cat) Tran and Mark Nielsen from adding the popular Vietnamese sandwich to their menu offerings.
“Ultimately, our quest for perfection kept getting in our way,” says Tran, who notes that the hunt for Vietnamese-style baguettes, with their light crispy exterior and soft, fluffy interior, led them down a multitude of paths over the course of the past eight years.
“We even spent time at a bakery in Vietnam to see if we could perfect the recipe so that we could make the bread in house,” Nielsen says. “But we decided that the art and science of bread baking just wasn’t in our wheelhouse.”
Instead, the couple played with other options, using brioche and bolillo buns to make and serve banh mi on their food truck during summer events like Bay View’s Chill on the Hill.
But, after moving into their snazzy new building at 2699 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. last spring, the couple once again embarked upon their journey to bring banh mi to the restaurant’s menu. And this time, they met with success.
The sandwiches, which have softly debuted at the restaurant over the past few months, are served on a French-style baguette that offers similar qualities, including the soft, slightly fluffy interior that lines a memorable banh mi.
In many ways Hue’s fare has always reflected a balance between traditional Vietnamese cuisine and creative license. And so it is with their banh mi, which take inspiration from not only traditional Vietnamese cuisine (lemongrass beef and shrimp), but also Japanese (chicken katsu with unagi sauce) and Chinese (char xiu pork) fare. But they’ve also taken care to retain the integrity and balance of flavors that makes the traditional banh mi so delicious.
Take, for instance the lemongrass beef banh mi, which features tender strips of beef marinated in lemongrass and garlic piled onto a toasted French baguette and topped with mild onion, cilantro, crunchy pickled carrots and daikon with garlic aioli, jalapenos (served on the side).
The sandwich is fresh and bright with plenty of umami from the beef, plus notes of lemongrass. The toppings are fresh and crunchy with just enough pickled flavor to counter the richness of the beef. And yes, I recommend adding the jalapenos for that pleasant (but not to spicy) bite.
The banh mi, priced $14.50-$15.50, are available for carry-out or dine-in. Each sandwich comes with a side of potato chips. But guests can also order a small bowl of Hue’s fragrant pho broth for dipping ($2.50). Highly recommended.
Hue is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Want more insights from Tran and Nielsen about their journey operating Hue Restaurant? Listen to our conversation with them on the FoodCrush Podcast.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.