The taste buds may have the final say on the quality of a meal, but the wallet is still definitely part of the conversation. Eating for cheap isn’t easy, and even fast-food joints have trouble serving up a meal with some variety for less than $5. It’s surprising then that tucked away in Falls Church’s Eden Center is a spot where little more than bus fare can buy a satisfying sandwich.
Les Baguettes, which opened last winter in the Saigon East section of the expansive Vietnamese shopping center, specializes in bánh mì sandwiches. Most of the sandwiches at this bakery/café cost $3.25, and the menu goes a quarter in each direction depending on the selection. What’s more, a free sandwich is thrown in with the purchase of five sandwiches (or, if there is a special, just four).
And these aren’t plastic-wrapped gas station grabs, either. The sandwiches are made on halves of baguettes baked fresh in-house, over a foot in length, and topped with meats and fresh vegetables in a variety of combinations.
Some of the sandwiches come with a smear of homemade mayonnaise and/or pâté, but all of them come with a well-combined assortment of vegetables that bring a fresh flavor and a little spice to the mix. The strips of pickled radish and carrot are tangy and a little sweet. Long slices of cool cucumber run the length of the baguette, sprinkled with bright cilantro. Jalapeño pieces break through with clean bursts of heat. The crunchy vegetables come together to complement the different deli meats that top the baguettes.
There are more than a dozen sandwich varieties offered at Les Baguettes which, save for the Vegetarian Mix ($3.25), make pork, chicken, and seafood their highlight. The Combination ($3.50) is made with slices of pork roll, ham, and head cheese which, despite the name, is not a cheese at all but rather a deli meat. The portion of meat on the sandwich is less than one might expect from the everyday sub, but the flavor is potent and savory, and it’s just the right amount of meat to mingle flavors with the vegetable toppings and bread.
The Pork Meatloaf ($3.25) might conjure up the image of a firm slab of meat resting next to a mound of mashed potatoes, but the meatloaf here is unlike the American classic. The meat is loose, nearly spread-able, and slightly spicy.
Pork options dominate the menu, from the rosy strips stacked on the Grilled Pork ($3.50) and BBQ Pork ($3.25) varieties to deli meats like ham. The Pork Belly ($3.25) add a meaty, fatty counterpoint to the fresh bread and vegetables that is appealing.
It’s fun to try a few different sandwiches from the menu with a group – and the price and special promotion certainly facilitates that – but whatever the selection, diners can count on a quality baguette beneath the butcher paper. A thin crust that’s golden and almost lustrous crackles with each bite, giving way to soft, chewy bread and the toppings within the sandwich.
Bánh mì sandwiches may be the focus of the menu, but that’s not all Les Baguettes has to offer. The small café-style shop is full of pre-packed Asian and European treats, with items like canned pâté – revealing, like the bakery’s very name, the French influence upon Vietnamese cuisine. Bubble Smoothies ($3.50), made with real fruit in flavors like strawberry and durian, come with a super-wide straw to sip up the loose, chewy tapioca balls settled on the bottom of the cup. The Vietnamese Ice Coffee ($3) has a caramel color that would suggest a milky drink, but the coffee flavor is very rich and robust.
If the delicious eats at Les Baguettes aren’t enough to inspire a return visit – and they should be – then a look at the final bill will surely seal the deal.
Les Baguettes is located at 6757 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church. For more information, call 703-992-7759 or visit lesbaguettes.net. Restaurant hours are Monday – Sunday: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.