Before cronuts, cragels and other hybrid foods, there was one that was a true master of divergent foodstuffs. It was a food that historically blended two cultures into one delicious creation. It was a rich masterpiece that mixed airy baguettes and smooth pâté with sweet pickled veggies and savory pork. It was the incomparable Vietnamese sandwich.
Referred to as bánh mì, baguettes made their way into Vietnam with French colonists in the late 18th century, along with other imports like pâté. From there, folks started adding local ingredients like pickled carrot, daikon, cilantro, peppers, fish sauce and delicious meats like roasted pork belly and head cheese.
It wasn’t until the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that these full loaded bánh mì went global. After the Vietnam War, refugees moved around the world and began setting up restaurants and bakeries in their new communities, everywhere from Sydney to San Francisco. And now, thanks to the ingenious minds at Sunny and Annie’s, the whole thing is taking another giant leap toward the future right here in the East Village. Their new creation? The Pho Sandwich. This beauty encapsulates many of the flavors we crave in a hot bowl of pho and makes it a portable meal ideal for lunch in the sun at Tompkins or late-night post-booze hunger pangs.
On a quiet corner of Avenue B and 6th Street, it’d be easy to breeze by this place without knowing the wonders that wait inside. At first glance, it’s camouflaged as your average neighborhood bodega — they sell all the corner store essentials — but the deli counter to the right is where they really shine. Covered in multicolored signs detailing sandwich ingredients, it’s one of those New York haunts with a loyal fleet of regulars who make a beeline for the counter and know the menu by heart.
So, you indubitably ask, how have they turned a noodle-based soup into a sandwich? The “P.H.O. Real” forgoes noodles in favor of more bread-friendly ingredients, but the unique combination of fillings keeps things satisfying. The whole thing is anchored by traditional thinly sliced roast beef, which is then layered up with crunchy bean sprouts, fresh basil, cilantro, avocado, tomato and onion, along with a healthy splash of both hoisin and sriracha sauces. They offer it hot or cold on a roll, but yes, trust us – you want to get it hot, all the better to enhance its pho-like qualities.
Like any enterprising sandwich builder, they’re also continuously adding new renditions to the menu. The P.H.O. #2 treads into more traditional ‘which territory while keeping a distinct Vietnamese flavor with lemon chicken, bacon, avocado, tofu, green chili sauce, basil, cilantro, hoisin sauce, onion, romaine lettuce and fuji apple, served on a hero or tucked inside a wrap.
Our favorite addition, though, is the fully loaded P.H.O. #3. Also known as the brand new “2014 ½ (spicy),” this thing is seriously a meal. Packed with lemon chicken, avocado, spinach, watercress, sesame leaves, mustard leaves, red onion, plum tomato, fresh jalapeño, pineapple, carrot and red pepper paste sauce. Get it piled onto a toasted hero or served in a wrap. Either way, we recommend a strong coffee or a nap in the park for dessert. Food coma, here we come.
Did we mention the best part of this whole thing? Sunny and Annie's is open 24-hours a day over at 94 Avenue B (on the corner of 6th Street.) Mop up your drool and head on down.