A good banh mi is surely a benefit of living in Orlando – and Paris too, no doubt – but Paris Banh Mi right here on East Colonial Drive is quite unlike the others. In Orlando, that is. For one, owner Hien Tran is a patissier with some serious baking cred, having graduated from Paris's École de Boulangerie et de Pâtisserie and earning certificates of distinction at the École Gastronomique Bellouet Conseil pastry school. His wife, Doan Nguyen, ran a trio of banh mi shops in Vietnam and, together, the duo serves some mighty fine sandwiches and pastries out of their sprawling Mills 50 bakery. They reopened Paris Banh Mi on April 25 but with a limited menu, so you'll have to wait a week or two to enjoy savories like beef stew ($9) and popcorn chicken ($5). When you do walk in, wear a mask. Trust me, it won't hinder your enjoyment any; the glorious scents of baked goods have a way of sneaking through protective face coverings.
- Photo by Rob Bartlett
For banh mi enthusiasts, the aroma and the snap, crackle and shhhh of a freshly baked baguette is a beautiful thing, and the loaves here are that – beautiful. All the more so when dolled up with porcine cuts (jambon, pork rolls and grilled pork), frilled with cilantro, crunched with pickled daikon, carrots and jalapeños, and layered above a creamy spread of pork liver pâté. The cost for this "special combination" sammie? A paltry $5.50. A poultry banh mi with shredded chicken can be had for $5. It's plenty gratifying, sure, but not quite as rich and luxuriant as the porkier numbers. For the same price, a veg version with stir-fried tofu is a plant-based pleasure (just hold off on the mayo if you're vegan).
- Photo by Rob Bartlett
And it's all thanks to that bread, mesdames, messieurs et citoyens. You could put boiled shoe between that baguette and it'd make a decent sandwich. Just remove the heel and laces before you do. Needless to say, you'd do well to purchase a loaf ($2.50) or two while you're here. I ripped into one immediately after downing a banh mi for lunch and scooped some creamy rapsflower blossom honey I had in my pantry with it. That was pre-dessert. Dessert-dessert comprised exquisite bites of a "chocolate trilogy" cake ($6), strawberry cheesecake ($6) and opéra gâteau ($5), a coffee-soaked almond sponge cake. I bloody well caked it on, I did. I even dreamt of ravaging a moussey raspberry-topped nocturne cake ($5) but, turns out, that was no dream (burp). Flavored teas, milk teas and slushies are also a big sell here, though we still prefer the cheese tea and fruits tea from Royaltea around the corner.
Croissants, naturally, are another featured item at Paris Banh Mi. The verdict: not bad at all. And, for $2 each, not a bad price either. I don't mean to nitpick (I did eat three of them, after all) but the croissants, while ultrasoft, could do with more flaky layering. I guess I'm still miffed about not being able to get my favorite croissants at Backhaus Bakery in Ivanhoe Village anymore, not since they moved all the way to Mount Dora.
Mount Dora! Scheisse. Pardon my French.
This story appears in the May 13, 2020, print edition of Orlando Weekly. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Central Florida. Please consider supporting this free publication with a one-time or monthly donation. Every little bit helps.