Lincoln Square has always had its fair share of ethnic cuisine—Italian, Greek, German, French, Japanese and so on. Heck, the city even called a stretch of Lawrence "Seoul Drive" due to the population of Korean immigrants in the area. Thanks to the arrival of Nhu Lan Bakery, a Vietnamese spot focusing on banh mi
sandwich selections, the 'hood can add another notch to its melting-pot belt.
Argyle Street's Ba Le has been focusing on banh mi for some time now without much in the way of local competition. Nhu Lan doesn't have the same fancy storefront space, but what it lacks in ambiance, the staff makes up for in kindness: The family is eager to offer customers help and suggestions.
If you're not familiar with banh mi, it's a style of sandwich served on 8-inch baguettes, topped with different kinds of meat (usually some kind of spiced pork or chicken), cilantro, cucumber, mayonnaise, slaw-style veggies and either jalapenos or Thai chiles. For those who prefer to avoid the spice-factor, try Nhu Lan's chicken banh mi; be sure to take out the chiles, too. The prime sandwich, however, is Nhu Lan's meatball rendition. Traditional meatballs they're not. It's more of a Vietnamese sloppy joe, and when the meat mixes with the sauce, veggies and spices, it creates a smooth tasty burn.
Pastries, pork rolls, rice cakes and authentic Asian drinks like lychee soda or canned coconut drink are available as well. The best part: The prices don't go any higher than $2.50 per sandwich, and if you buy five, the next one is on the house.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Karl Klockars