Banh mi price inflation is a hot button for foodniks. Is it reasonable to double the price of cheapo Vietnamese sandwiches when they're composed of midgrade ingredients and served in swankier digs by white people in black shirts? On the other hand, is it offensive to suggest Asian immigrants should sell their wares for $3.25 when people happily pay $10.95 for a salami sandwich at Kenny & Zuke's?
For a bourgie take on banh mi, try Double Dragon, a new Southeast Division Street joint owned and operated by Rob Walls, a former Bunk Sandwiches artist. It clearly isn't aimed at An Xuyen Bakery regulars ("Banh mi is a certain kind of sandwich that was invented in Vietnam. Have you heard of it?" the restaurant's website asks) and won't please traditionalists.
Double Dragon bakes its own bread daily, and it's thick, hearty stuff—unlike Best Baguette's crisp-shelled but wispy bread, which is pulled from the oven hourly. Including a side of deeply browned potato chips is another move toward bahnality that's likely to raise some ire. Toppings—cilantro, jalapeño, pickled carrots and daikon—are essentially per standard. The bright orange meatballs of "beef, pork, secrets" ($7.50) were our favorite filling, pairing nicely with the crisp, purple jicama slaw ($2.75). Pork belly ($7.50) flavored with pineapple and brown sugar was more fat than flavor. The slow-cooked, hoisin-heavy pulled pork ($7.50) is a better piece of pig. Order the excellent roasted carrot soup, rich with coconut milk and tangy with basil and green salsa, and you'll be less interested in driving out to 82nd Avenue.
- Order this: Meatball banh mi ($7.50) and a small roasted carrot soup ($3.25).
- Best deal: Rainier tall boy ($1.50).
- Iâll pass: Anything with pork belly.
EAT: Double Dragon, 1235 SE Division Street, 230-8340, doubledragonpdx.com. 11:30 am-9 pm daily. $$.