Famous for its poutine and smoked meat, Montreal also boasts a number of standout bánh mì joints. Bánh mì literally translates to "all kinds of bread," though it has come to mean simply a Vietnamese sandwich. This alternative to fast food offers a sensory experience that accesses all the areas of the palate – salty, sweet, tangy and spicy. [Image credit: iStock.com/oannatkaczuk]
Café Bánh Mì Linh is just a 20-minute walk from the Jean-Talon market. In addition to yummy bánh mì combos like sausage and vegetable, smoked pork, sesame beef and omelette, Café Banh Mi Linh offers spicy and non-spicy vermicelli dishes in some of the same flavour varieties as the sandwiches, as well as tongue-pleasing combinations like sautéed lemon chicken in curry. If you want to complement the sandwich or vermicelli dish with Asian appetizers, try the imperial rolls or dumplings.
Located in the Eaton Centre in the Ste-Catherine West shopping district, Vie & Nam offers stiff competition for the other fast food vendors in the food court. The grilled beef bánh mì seems like the favourite among hungry shoppers, though folks also like the pork and lemongrass dishes. Vie & Nam also offers fusion items like the taco bánh mì, infused with the signature cilantro, carrots and daikon, but stuffed into a tortilla shell.
Busy and bustling, this is another sandwich-on-the-go, buy-10-bánh-mì-get-one-free joint, also right in the heart of Chinatown. Regulars get the shrimp papaya salad as a side with the dac biet, which, for Cao Thang (as for most bánh mì venues), means the classic combo of daikon, pickled carrots and meat. Note that Cao Thang is serious when it says "spicy." You've been warned.
Hoang Oanh Sandwich is along the main thoroughfare of Chinatown, Boul. St-Laurent before you cross René-Lévesque and hit Quartier des Spectacles. It's one of those sandwich-on-the-go places; you can grab a premade, wrapped bánh mì for a few bucks and zip back to the office. And the premade part doesn't diminish the flavour. Chinatown folks are pleased by this respectable answer to fast food fare - a delicately chewy bread with all the usual Vietnamese fixings.
Marché Hung Phat sources fresh ingredients from the bustling and vibrant Jean-Talon farmers market nearby. You'll salivate for these sandwiches infused with the classic Vietnamese flavours of daikon, pickled carrots and cilantro, as well as spices and mayo. In addition to the signature sandwiches served on baguettes, Marché Hung Phat also offers Vietnamese buns (bánh bao) and a spicy soup, bún bò huế, that contains a delectable combination of beef, lemongrass, spices and other savoury ingredients.
This place is actually a wholesaler located in eastern Montreal. The large market sells all kinds of Asian products from Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam, but they carry some Latino items as well. Go for the bánh mì, which is usually served up on a light, crispy and butter-infused baguette, but stay for the other Vietnamese treats, like dumplings and imperials, and the grocery store's fresh produce.
Keep your eyes peeled for this little gem located among the many terrasses along the Latin Quarter part of south St-Denis. They serve authentic bánh mì, which includes radish, daikon and other ingredients, but these guys offer up to 15 varieties of the sandwich, including grilled chicken, pork and barbecue pork. Vua Sandwichs is something of a crossover bánh mì/fast food joint, offering Middle Eastern-flavoured favourites like shish taouk, as well as North American baguette-based eatables, like BLTs and clubs.
You do have to range outside the centre of Montreal for this one, though it's only a short drive from the Botanical Gardens and the Biodome, so you can finish off your day of sightseeing with a fresh and tangy bánh mì. Bánh Mì Tran offers corporate catering, so it has a wider appeal than simply fast food. Here, they stick to the basics: the tangy pickles and spicy sauces, the delicious meat and healthy dose of cilantro, and the mango smoothies are popular accompaniments to the bánh mì.