It's funny how you get in the habit of stopping into a place to pick up one thing and never sample any other items from the menu. For me, such is the case with South Philly's Ba Le, a chain bakery and restaurant that sells a wide range of Vietnamese baked goods, desserts, meats, ready to eat meals, Banh Mi, bubble tea, and many other treats I don't know how to pronounce. Ba Le has always been my Washington Ave. stop for avocado bubble tea, and that's about it...until I decided to try their vegetarian Banh Mi, one of twelve varieties of Banh Mis they offer.Sweet and mildly spiced fried tofu strips, pickled daikon and carrot strands, a cucumber spear, jalapeno slices, and a couple cilantro springs are nestled in a freshly baked baguette slathered liberally with sweet mayonnaise. The soft-on-the-inside and crispy-on-the-outside baguette (so crispy the sandwich was loud!), and the addictive sweet fried tofu really make Ba Le's Banh Mi a standout amongst other Banh Mis I've recently tried.Ba Le bakes their baguettes on site, and sells them in packages of four for only a few bucks, so next time you're jonesin' for a Banh Mi (so simple to make at home), drop by and pick up few baguettes. Rice flour is used in Vietnamese baguettes, so the rolls are a little different than a traditional French baguette, and a whole lot different than a hoagie roll, so getting the real deal really makes a difference when building a Banh Mi. Our bag of four baguettes were not as ultra crispy as the baguette the sandwich Ba Le made me, but still very good. And look at me! I went back to Ba Le and tried something other than the bubble tea. Plucked a container of Mi Xao Chay, stir fried vegetarian egg noodles with tofu, veggies, and vinaigrette, from the deli case and dined happily at home. Making progress at eating Ba Le!
Ba Le Bakery and Restaurant
606 Washington Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19147