Meatballs flecked with mint and garlic fill a banh mi at BonMi. Photographs by Kyle Gustafson
Downtown drones have a new sandwich option come lunchtime, and (thankfully) it's not another branch of Potbelly. BonMi has joined the growing number of fast-and-casual eateries in the area, bringing Vietnamese salads, summer rolls, lettuce wraps, and eight varieties of bánh mì to a 34-seat space at 900 19th Street Northwest.
What separates the sandwiches from those at, say, Eden Center (the Vietnamese shopping center in Seven Corners is a popular bánh mì destination) is that proteins are prepared in nine sous-vide machines working away in back. The meats—lemongrass chicken, mint-flecked pork meatballs, and char siu (Chinese barbecue) brisket—are vacuum sealed then slow-cooked in a water bath for up to 24 hours. Diners order meat or tofu wrapped in leaves of butter lettuce with chili-lime dipping sauce; sliced atop a crunchy salad of bean sprouts, rice noodles, purple cabbage, and fresh herbs; or stuffed into a local Lyon Bakery roll and topped with house-pickled vegetables and stalks of cilantro. Also on the menu: summer rolls full of chicken or butternut squash and similar accoutrements as the sandwiches. Thai hot sauce Sriracha is on-hand for heating things up; fresh-squeezed lemonade and Vietnamese ice coffee help cool things down.
Sandwich prices range from $6 to $7.50. That's pricier than your typical burb bánhs, but you could spend a lot more for a lesser lunch this close to Farragut West. And there might be more BonMis to come: Owners hope to open two new shops by the end of 2012, provided the original proves popular. Want one in your neighborhood? Speak up. Upcoming locations have yet to be determined.
BonMi. 900 19th Street, Northwest; 202-785-0012. Eatbonmi.com. Open Monday through Friday, 11 AM to 7 PM.