Caphe Banh Mi
Caphe Banh Mi is an undiscovered treasure, located in Old Town Alexandria behind the Courthouse, one block off King Street. The restaurant serves up traditional Vietnamese fare at a very reasonable price. It has an intimate feel and the decor showcases the owners pride for their heritage. One wall is dominated with an outline of Vietnam and lists Vietnamese cities. The other decorations include beautiful pastels of rustic Vietnamese themes, such as traditional farming and landscapes.
I recommend starting your meal off with the Imperial Rolls. They come out hot and perfectly crispy and are not your typical clumsy and greasy egg rolls you expect from your local “hole in the wall” Chinese restaurant. The Imperial Rolls are stuffed with crab, shrimp, pork and vegetables and they are sure to satisfy.
I also tried a bowl of the Tai Pho (rare eye of round steak). It came out very well seasoned and the flavor of the broth was full of exotic spices, possibly even a little bit of cinnamon that excited the dish. The soups are purposely served without much “hot spice” so each guest can peruse the spice tray and add sriracha if they would like to kick up the heat. The portions are absolutely enormous and for an extra $1 they will box up the remaining soup so you can take it home.
My overall meal included a delicious lotus iced tea, the Imperial Rolls and an enormous bowl of Pho. I walked out of the restaurant extremely filled and had leftovers for lunch the next day. The whole meal cost $20 (tax and tip included).
For those of you that are new to Vietnamese food, I also recommend the Sloppy Viet Bo Bam Banh Mi sandwich. If you have never had a Banh Mi sandwich before, it is a Vietnamese street food that includes influences of French and Asian cuisine between two pieces of bread. During the French colonial period of Vietnam’s history the French brought the baguette bread to Vietnam. The Vietnamese immediately started combining the French baguette with French and Indochina ingredients to create the Bahn Mi sandwich. I know that the Sloppy Viet Bo Bam Bahn Mi sandwich is a wordy name but it is worth all the syllables it takes to order.