Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Caphe Banh Mi

A place that calls itself Caphe Banh Mi better have good banh mi. The banh mi shown above, The Vegan Chay, is one of the best vegan sandwiches in the area.
A place that calls itself Caphe Banh Mi better have good banh mi. This Old Town eatery has excellent banh mi. The Vegan Chay, shown above, is one of the best vegan sandwiches in the area.

Caphe Banh Mi is an intimate little eatery located in Old Town Alexandria with fare that’s perfect for anytime, but especially fit for the oncoming winter. As the name suggests, the restaurant, which has been open for about two and a half years, specializes in the delectable Vietnamese sandwiches, though they also have some delicious, hearty pho.

The decoration is modern, yet it still has nods to Vietnam including a wall sculpture of the outline of the Southeast Asian country surrounded by different Vietnamese cities. The place is packed, or close to it, most of the time and for good reason: the food is tasty and the service is great. Also, the prices are reasonable – you could have a three course meal for two for around $30.

The Vegetarian Imperial Rolls are a delightful starter. (Photo: News-Press)
The Vegetarian Imperial Rolls are a delightful starter. (Photo: News-Press)

There are vegan and vegetarian options in every section of Caphe Banh Mi’s menu. For starters, there are the Tamarind Rolls and Vegetarian Imperial Rolls, which are both wonderful in their own way. The Tamarind Rolls – with fried tofu, shiitake mushrooms, vermicelli, asparagus, peanuts and pickled carrots – are light and come with a savory tamarind sauce.

The Vegetarian Imperial Rolls are deep fried rolls stuffed with tofu, taro root, mung bean noodles, carrot and woodear mushrooms. They are a little heavier than the Tamarind Rolls, but they are more savory on their own than the Tamarind Rolls, too, and come with a light, sweet dipping sauce to balance it out.

Caphe Banh Mi’s sandwich menu features one of the best vegan sandwiches in the area. The Vegan Chay sandwich – with soy chicken, lemongrass and a caramel soy sauce – tastes different enough to be distinct, but still manages to taste like a familiar comfort food. The sandwich is light enough for there to be room for pho afterward, or for diners to not feel too full if they have an appetizer before the sandwich.

For diners looking for something a little more filling than just a sandwich, Caphe Banh Mi has a few different rice plate options. Vegans and vegetarians might enjoy the Lemongrass Tofu rice plate, which comes with grilled mushrooms.

The pho at Caphe Banh Mi is tasty, hearty and comforting. The Pho Chay, shown above, is the restaurant's vegan pho option. (Photo: News-Press)
The pho at Caphe Banh Mi is tasty, hearty and comforting. The Pho Chay, shown above, is the restaurant’s vegan pho option. (Photo: News-Press)

Pho is a perfect winter dish because it’s a hot soup with a light broth, but it also has tons of goodies, like rice noodles, protein and vegetables, which makes it hearty and nutritious. And the pho at Caphe Banh Mi has been gaining a reputation as some of the best in the area.

Its Pho Chay comes with tofu, chayote, carrot, cauliflower and soy chicken in a veggie broth. The salty, sweet taste of the broth is as comforting as it is warm and the tofu absorbs the flavorful broth decently. The soy chicken is great, but it’s a little scant – finding it in the bowl is kind of like finding the marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms, except harder.

The wait staff at Caphe Banh Mi works as a team and are very polite and attentive. They are all very relaxed, which adds to the laid back vibe of the place, and they seem genuinely concerned about the experience of their diners.

With such great service and a wonderful, diverse array of menu items, it’s easy to imagine Caphe Banh Mi becoming a favorite in the region sooner rather than later.

Caphe Banh Mi | 407 Cameron St. | Alexandria | caphebanhmi.com

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