There's a place in north Austin where, for a few dollars (very few), you can get a beautifully constructed Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. The filling of choice, often some sort of meat, is topped with lightly pickled daikon radish and carrot and sprinkled liberally with fresh cilantro. All this is encased in some of the most perfect French bread I've ever had the pleasure to eat. Some mayonnaise ties it all together and slices of fresh jalapenos are offered on the side so the heat may be adjusted to your liking. It may not look like much from the outside, but Baguette House is well worth a visit.
We're shameful about eating within a very small radius of where we live. In fact, the busier our work-lives get, the tighter that radius constricts. It took this post from our Boots in the Oven friends to get our butts over to Baguette House, and we've been eating there routinely ever since.
Sean and I now even have our standard order.
We will start our meal by splitting the Grilled Pork Spring Rolls. These are served with a sweet and a spicy dipping sauce which, right or wrong, we immediately dump together and spoon sparingly into our spring rolls as we eat them. If what you're used to are fried egg rolls, these are an entirely different experience. Their thin, tacky rice wrappers are filled with rice noodles, some herbs and vegetables for added flavor and texture, and in this case, thin slices of grilled pork. They're cool and refreshing and so much better than egg rolls on a hot Texas afternoon.
I will have their #1 House Special Combination - sliced jambon, head cheese, pork meat loaf, and pate. I love the layers of variously textured and flavored meats. Their relatively high fat content works wonderfully with the acid of the pickled veggies and the heat of the jalapeno slices.
Sean will have the #6 - Grilled Pork. Sean is not a fan of head cheese, so I can't even get him to try the sandwich I love so dearly. Luckily there are many options at Baguette house that don't require you eat things you are uncomfortable with (menu here - warming, PDF). Sean's grilled pork is, more often than not, sweet and tender and just the right amount of moist. It's very occasionally a bit on the dry side, but it's never stopped us from coming back and trying again. I recently ventured out and tried something different - the #12 - Cajun Shrimp. Its still-warm, lightly salty-spicy nuggets of shrimp warmed the mayo to a rather sauce-like consistency and made for an entirely different banh mi experience.
Sometimes, Sean will also have dessert. I'm certain there is a lovely French name for his pastry of choice, but we refer to this as a cream horn. He has repeatedly pronounced their rendition wonderful.
One of the best things about Baguette House is, not surprisingly, their bread. It is crackle-crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. Plus, the bread to filling ration in the sandwich is just about perfect. You still are able to enjoy the excellent French bread flavor without having it overwhelm the sandwich.
Unfortunately, my pitiful American mouth is no match for the very crispy bread, and I often leave with the roof of my mouth having been a bit torn up. I never regret it, and the pain is usually gone within a day or so. And it's usually not long before all memory of it is gone and I'm back to subtley suggesting that it might be nice to drive over to Baguette House for banh mi again. Highly recommended.
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