Nov 29, 2022 - Food and Drink

5 must-try banh mi sandwiches in Charlotte

Photo: Danielle Chemtob/Axios

The banh mi — with meat, pickled vegetables and more on a crunchy-yet-soft-on-the-inside baguette — is the perfect affordable lunch.

And there are plenty of options to choose from in Charlotte.

Context: The banh mi originated from French colonialism influences on Vietnam. Now, as local joint Banh Mi Brothers put it on its website, banh mi is “to the Vietnamese culture as hamburgers are to America.”

Here are five places to get a banh mi in Charlotte, in no particular order. 

Le’s Sandwiches & Cafe

This is THE original banh mi spot in Charlotte, and it’s not hard to see why it remains a favorite. It’s hidden down a hallway at the Asian Corner Mall, and has been around since 2004.

  • And despite the property’s recent sale, Le’s isn’t closing. It’ll reopen in a new space underway developed by Beauxwright on the site.

What to order: Choose from a variety of meats in your sandwich, including chicken and multiple varieties of pork. We tried the Le’s Combination, which includes several types of cold cuts and pâté slathered on the bread, and the Grilled Chicken.

  • Wash it all down with Vietnamese sugar cane juice, which you can watch them juice right in front of you.
  • Price: Approximately $6, depending on which variety you order.

My thought bubble: The bread is perfectly light and crunchy, and the vegetables were some of the freshest I tasted while putting together this guide. The richness of the pâté made the combo especially flavorful.

Le’s Combination. Photo: Danielle Chemtob/Axios

Banh Mi Brothers

This spot on East W.T. Harris Boulevard in the University area serves up both traditional and specialty banh mi flavors. They also offer fresh rolls, rice plates, noodle bowls and interesting fries like “pho-tine,” Korean and vegan kimchi, as well as tea, fruity shakes and Vietnamese coffee.

What to order: The grilled pork and Korean beef, which is like a bulgogi bowl in a sandwich. The flavorful beef was served with cucumber and topped with crunchy kimchi and cilantro aioli.

  • Price: The traditional banh mi are $7.50, and the specialty ones are $10.50.

My thought bubble: Banh Mi Brothers perfectly blends the classics and fusion flavors. It’s a great place for a casual lunch with friends or family, with plenty of seating.

Korean beef banh mi. Photo: Danielle Chemtob/Axios

Cilantro Noodle

Cilantro Noodle opened in Plaza Midwood in 2019, and it serves up some of the best grilled pork I have ever tasted.

What to order: In addition to banh mi, the fast-casual Vietnamese joint offers pho, rice and noodle bowls, wings, fresh rolls and more. Plus, the adjoining Ocha Time Tea & Creamery serves tea, coffee, slushies, rolled ice cream, and soft serve in Taiyaki fish-shaped cones or bubble waffles.

  • In other words, come hungry, and eat your way through the menus.
  • Price: $8.50-$10.50

My thought bubble: It’s no surprise that the grilled pork banh mi is my favorite, but the banh mi dac biet, or combination, is also a standout, with jambon, head cheese (which is a cold cut, not cheese), pork belly porchetta, poke meatloaf, and pâté.

Grilled pork (bottom) and Dac Biet (top). Photo: Danielle Chemtob/Axios

Lula Bánh Mì + Bakery

Yes, this is in Pineville, not Charlotte, but trust me, the bread alone is worth the drive.

Lula is another newcomer that opened this year in a small but colorful space near the new Super G Mart location. Their baked-in-house baguette was pillowy perfection and paired well with the freshly grilled pork. The cold-cut classic combines rich pâté with Vietnamese Ham, head cheese and Char Siu, or Chinese BBQ pork.

What to order: Their menu also includes curries, noodle bowls and light bites like spring rolls. End your meal on a sweet note with one of their signature desserts, like a macaron, cupcake or Basque cheesecake bite.

  • Price: $6.50-$8.50
Grilled pork banh mi. Photo: Danielle Chemtob/Axios

Crispy Banh Mi Sandwiches & Cafe

This banh mi shop that started on South Boulevard has quickly expanded to Plaza-Shamrock and Ayrsley, and a fourth location is in the works in Ballantyne. We visited the Shamrock Drive location.

What to order: Most of the varieties feature pork, such as grilled pork, Bar-B-Que pork, pork meatballs and pork roll. The Crispy’s Favorite, which combines three types of cold cuts with chicken, is a great mix of flavors, and the Bar-B-Que pork is flavorful and rich.

  • They also serve appetizers like summer rolls and vermicelli bowls.
  • End with one of their desserts, which features coconut juice or milk mixed with various jellies, fruit, mung bean and other flavors.
  • Price: $7-$9
Bar-B-Que pork banh mi. Photo: Danielle Chemtob/Axios

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in August 2018 and last updated Nov. 2022. 

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