Last week, while passing by the Super 88 in Allston, I saw a banner announcing the opening of a new place focusing on banh mi. Could someone be daring to take on the dominance of Pho Viet in the house? I was intrigued, of course, and on Friday I headed down for lunch to find the counter storefront, which has long been a revolving door of various food businesses, now sporting numerous pastries in its cabinet and an array of sandwich fixin's in it's steam table.
As I approached the counter to check out the selection, a young man offered his service nervously. I asked about a menu and he stated that they weren't ready yet. I then inquired about the possibilities and he awkwardly (it should be noted, not due to any lack of English language skills) suggested a few possibilities. I ordered a pork trio of ham, salami and roast pork. Evidently, someone had placed an order before me (where they had been and why the young man had not been preparing it already is one of the start of the mysteries to come) so i watched as he prepared their sandwich, a beef, by first toasting/warming the roll in an oven and then awkwardly (there's that word again!) assembling the ingredients from the seemingly disorganized array of wells on the steam table.
The beef looked interesting, so I requested on of those as well - figuring I'd split them half and half for lunch and save the rest for later or to share at work. Once he had finished with the previous customer's meal (she had miraculously appeared out of the seated patrons to grab her banh mi) he began in on mine with the same lack of confidence in the activity at hand. Much futile lifting of covers over the wrong items and searching about. In addition, he had to cut fresh chilies for the sandwiches - something that surely should have been tended to in the copious time before my arrival. It was obvious that food service was not in his blood.
Meanwhile, I certainly did notice the ladies of Pho Viet giving this usually loyal customer the hairy eyeball...
Anyway, after a total wait of about 10 minutes or a little more, I had my two banh mi, plus two complimentary promo sodas. The price on each rang up to $3.95.
the verdict on the sandwiches? Decent. Reasonable flavor and a nice variety change from the Pho Viet selections at the very least. But they were incredibly uneven in preparation with the ingredients woefully varying with each bite. The 3-pork started off as a mild cold cut sandwich featuring a nice porky goodness until suddenly I found myself with a numbing mouthful of jalapeno (I love heat, but this was bread and pepper!). The overall results, while having some tasty elements, made me long for the reliability of Pho Viet.
So this afternoon, Pho Viet is where I headed, as much to fill my belly as to make penance to the ladies for my transgression of patronage across the food court. However, when I entered I glanced at the new restaurant and found the counter even quieter than before as there was no sign of customers OR staff. The cabinet was filled with pastries and the lights were on, but... no one seemed to be home. If they were there, the were certainly not aiding in making the place inviting by at least making it seem open for business!
As I left, my Pho Viet banh mi reliably in hand, I check the banner outside for the new businesses name so it could be relayed here, but the banner was now gone.
As I suspect, this potential new addition to the canon of failed 88 food court businesses may soon be as well...