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The Dish: Banh mi thit nguôi
The Location: Song Que, 6773 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church, (703) 536-7900
The Price: $2.50
The Skinny: Back in a day, one of the great things about living in Houston was that its Vietnamese community was located just outside of downtown. You could sneak out of the office for lunch, grab a mouthwatering, pâté-smeared banh mi sandwich for $2, and give Mickey D the finger on the way back to work, knowing you ate something far fresher, tastier, and cheaper than anything you could buy at the Golden Arches. To replicate the experience in the District, you have to take the Metro to Wheaton or drive the ol’ Global Warming Machine to the Eden Center in Falls Church, which of course pretty much doubles the cost of your sandwich and leaves a Shaq-like carbon footprint. Is the banh mi from Song Que worth all the gas-guzzling, time-consuming effort? To be frank, no. But if you’re in the area, by all means stop by the narrow Vietnamese deli, which the Lai family opened five years ago next to its other operation, Huong Que/Four Sisters. Song Que’s cold-cut combo is slightly out of balance to my palate—too much emphasis on the marinated, julienned veggies, and not enough on the head cheese, pâté, and ham. But, still, the crunchy-spongy baguette yields nicely with each bite, and its contents give you what you want from banh mi: heat, sweetness, and a blast of fresh, aromatic goodness from the cilantro, which fools you into thinking you’re eating lighter than you really are. Of course, given the paucity of pork in this version, you may actually be eating pretty light.