A counter-serve banh mi spot in Chinatown isn’t exactly a novelty, but what if I told you Paris Sandwich on Grand bakes its baguettes hourly, scoops ice cream from Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, and accepts credit cards? Never take that last part for granted in this ‘hood, considering similar dives nearby have strict cash-only policies.
The menu at this unassuming cafe features a stacked roster of Vietnamese dishes -- from beef pho to grilled lemongrass chicken on rice -- but go for the banh mi, particularly the grilled pork, so you can experience the baguette. As you’d expect from a place with “Paris” in its name, this deli takes its bread seriously: the baguettes are baked in hearth-fired ovens until they’re toasted and flaky on the outside but soft on the inside, where chunks of tender pork, cilantro, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and daikon are nestled. Though the sandwich itself is smaller than what you’d get at, say, Saigon down the street, the meat and veggies are served in generous portions and aren’t too sweet like the glazed versions at, say, Saigon down street. If you replied “yes, of course” when the server asked if you wanted your sandwich spicy (which is the only acceptable answer), get a Vietnamese iced coffee to contrast the hot peppers.
While waiting for your sandwich, you’ll be tempted by snacks that line the counter like last-minute candy choices at the grocery store, such as mung bean cake and shrimp coconut flan -- but you should save room for the ice cream, which comes in flavors like black sesame, green tea, and purple ube. In a neighborhood that’s anything but hurting for cheap, authentic Asian food, why wouldn’t you make the credit card-friendly joint that has both fresh banh mi and homemade ice cream your go-to?