Restaurant News & Reviews

Top Dish: Soy House has best Viet sandwich in Whatcom County

Beef bánh mì from Soy House in Bellingham.
Beef bánh mì from Soy House in Bellingham. The Bellingham Herald

Sandwich search ends ... I’ve been eating my way through Whatcom County in search of the best bánh mì. If you don’t know, this sandwich grew out of French colonialism in Vietnam — in which the Vietnamese took to filling French baguettes with any combination of meats, tofus and vegetables accented with distinctly Southeast Asian flavors.

I’ve been eating these Vietnamese sandwiches at Soy House, Avenue Bread & Deli, Brandywine Kitchen, and Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro in my quest to find the best.

I’ve been searching for slightly sweet pickled carrots and/or daikon radish, cilantro and thin slices of jalapeno — working together to counter the rich flavors in the sandwich — and bread that is airy, with a crackly crust.

For this dine-off, I picked restaurants that always have the sandwiches on their menus, rather than places that feature them on a rotating basis.

Soy House won the first round with its grilled lemongrass beef. Brandywine came out on top in the second round last month with its lightly marinated flank steak sub.

(I also noshed on one made with pork cold cuts at Jimmy’s Vietnamese Sandwich Bar in Fairhaven. It was tasty but the sandwich eatery is seasonal and closed until spring, so it’s not a contender.)

Soy House’s sandwich is the one that has stayed with me throughout this mini culinary tour. Will it come out on top?

Name: Pho Restaurant.

Location: 4492 Meridian St., near Van Wyck Road. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Contact: 360-676-2708.

Quick bite: This place surprised me. I had driven by a number of times and wasn’t sure whether I should stop in given the dearth of vehicles parked out front. But, research called.

I ordered a $4 grilled pork sandwich. It came on a lightly toasted French bread roll. The pork was tender, slightly sweet with bright undertones from the lemongrass, and a bit smoky. Those rich flavors were offset by pickled daikon and carrots, fresh cucumbers, cilantro, and long slices of jalapeno that left a lingering heat.

It was tasty and definitely the best value so far.

While you’re there, try a refreshing Vietnamese salted plum drink (soda xi muoi) for $3. The combination of salty, tangy and sweet makes me think of Jarritos tamarind-flavored soda.

Name: Soy House.

Location: 400 W. Holly St. in downtown Bellingham. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Contact: 360-393-4857, Facebook and at soyhouserestaurant.com.

Quick bite: As I ate around, Lynden reader Jim Aguirre told me: “You can search Bellingham forever, but you won’t find a better bánh mì than the one Soy House serves!” He’s been a fan of the Vietnamese restaurant since owners Tony and Angie Nguyen opened in their first Bellingham location, at West Bakerview Road. His favorite sandwich is the one made with barbecue pork filling.

The winner is... Aguirre is right. Soy House does have the best bánh mì in Whatcom County.

At $8.25, its grilled lemongrass beef sandwich came with a side of egg rolls or sweet potato fries, and was served on a French bread roll. The filling included a ground-pork spread, butter, cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro and jalapeno slices.

The bread had a pleasing crunch. The thin slices of beef, which had been marinated, were sweet and savory. The ground-pork spread added a deeper note that complemented the sweetness of the meat.

This sandwich was a symphony of rich flavors, as a bánh mì should be. Delicious.

Got suggestions for tasty tidbits in Whatcom County or an eatery known for a particular dish? Send them to kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-715-2234.

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