Behold a Banh Mi
I've often said that I'd love to see more eateries focus on one thing that they do really well. Something they nail so consistently that patrons don't even think about a wider menu. But also, something other than a burger or barbecue, of which we already sport many fine options.
Based on reports from both friends and Indy readers, apparently four-month-old Banh Mi Viet (3315 N. Academy, 629-9416) is such a place. According to Army veteran and co-owner Huy Phan, the spot serves six variations of a banh mi sandwich and that's it, aside from a rotating dessert special that might be something like sweet rice and taro with coconut milk, and a Saturday-only traditional entrée special.
If you're unfamiliar with the sandwich, it stems from French colonization of Vietnam, which gifts a personal-sized baguette to the equation. "We took the good from them," quips Phan.
Fillings vary widely in Vietnam, where the item is commonly sold in street cafes or from carts, he says. But here, his wife Trang focuses strictly on pork as the meat. And aside from some American-style ham, she prepares everything in-house.
She makes her own head cheese (face meats bound with gelatin) for a cured pork banh mi. Plum, soy and fish sauce inform another grilled pork sandwich. There's pork belly marinated for a day and then slow-cooked, and shredded pork mixed with toasted rice powder. Lastly, a meatball made partly with minced jicama for moisture retention, and a combo sandwich that fuses aspects of many of the above.
Once the protein hits the house-baked bread, you get pickled daikon, carrots and cilantro as garnish. Jalapeños and raw onions are options for heat or bite.
And even with all that care and attention, each sandwich is only $3.50, and most folks tend to fill up on one, says Phan.
Cinnamon horchata. Peruvian coffee. Vanilla cardamom. Green chile.
Yes, there's a green-chile-flavored caramel in the lineup at Peak Candy Company (peakcandy.com). Owner Nina Grant says she creates "offbeat flavors, and something beautiful with local ingredients."
A refugee from corporate work, Grant volunteered in Boston kitchens to learn her craft, then went on to work for several fine bakeries and eateries there. When her husband, an Air Force musician, was transferred to the Springs a couple of years ago, she worked at Summit at the Broadmoor and for the Blue Star Group as a pastry chef, then decided to go it alone.
Though she may expand to nut brittles and marshmallows in the near future, she launched only with a caramel lineup that's already earned her placement with notable Denver artisans, as well as many local shops. Grant uses local products where possible, such as Mission Coffee Roasters java, The Honey Cottage honey and Savory Spice Shop essences.