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Restaurants

Banh Mi Boys

Posted by Ryan Spencer / Reviewed on April 3, 2012 / review policy

Banh Mi BoysBanh Mi Boys have returned from a hiatus at the corner of Queen and Spadina. It seems the Boys have retreated during their winter break for a complete reno having been closed for several months. Ditching the cheap and cheerful, they've arrived with a new sleek look and expanded menu. But for all that cackle and spackle, do the sandwiches offer more than the joints up Spadina?

Banh Mi BoysIn the vein of Salad King, Banh Mi Boys have added a glossy interior that masks any trace of their former self. Ample tables and counter seating are a welcomed addition - no longer just a grab-and-go place.

Banh Mi BoysThe menu is extensive for Banh Mi sandwiches ranging from duck confit ($7.49) and squid (5.99) to a more apt beef cheek (5.99) and pork belly (5.99). Modern additions that elevate this type of Vietnamese street food. A little late to the party, tacos (3.99), were added by customers requests. Steamed Bao fried chicken (3.49) definitely leapt off their flat screen menu - what did not was the Kimchi Fries that looked nothing more like luke warm kimchi smothering soggy fries.

Banh Mi BoysWe ordered: Pork Belly and Beef Cheek Banh Mi with a side of Jicama Papaya Salad (2.99) and the Steam Bao Fried Chicken. Within minutes, the place was slammed with a line up nearing the door - even still, our order was up in under fifteen.

Banh Mi BoysThe Banh Mi is good, not stellar, but maybe I've been spoiled by Matty Matheson's version. Way too many carrots and not nearly enough cilantro or scallions, the sandwich became more of a slaw towards last bite. Still, the price is on point and the ingredients are top notch - especially the baguette. The five spice pork belly was the favourite of the two.

Banh Mi BoysFried Chicken Steam Bao is a concept done right! The meat, moist and tender, is covered by a spiced panko crust with a dollop of spicy mayo. Oddly, it reminded me of a country fried steak on a biscuit. The Papaya Salad brightened the rest of the meal and was a good note to end on.

Last Fall, Bahn Mi Boys were the new kids on the block but much has changed in their absence. Just a stones throw, Come And Get It has become the go-to-go sandwich place of late catering to the biz lunch rush; albeit different menus but similar concepts, so let the boys duke it out and may the best sandwich win.

Banh Mi BoysPhotos by Peter Henderson

Discussion

68 Comments

Truc Nitram / January 18, 2012 at 10:31 am
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Truc Nitram
This place. Is not good. At best, it’s average. Nothing really setting it apart from what you can get up the street besides a hipster name and t-shirts.

The whole phenomena of street food, food trucks and food stalls has opened up the door for every wannabe with a half-cooked idea and a somewhat clever name to buy in. People chomping at the bit for this allows a sub-standard product to pass as something great.

Having visited here, I can say on every tier this business fails. Product is standard, buns are standard, toppings(where you can really get creative and interesting and set yoursef apart)are nothing other than mandolined daikon, carrots and if they have them cucumbers. They didnt when I was there but they had a plethora of half-assed excuses as to why not. Sauces? Straight bottled stuff. Service was messy , unorganized, unfriendly and stale. A business like this needs personality and exuberance and the front and a quality driven product as the anchor. Bahn Mi Boys has neither. They have cool t-shirts though! Guess that’s all you need these days. Smoke. Mirrors.

I’m reminded of the dreadful Agave Y Aguacate. Another street food spot propped up by the public for some reason beyond my grasp. Same disorganized service, mediocre product and hype. Businesses need to be ready and prepared. Trialed and tested and not some fly-by-the-seat attitude or calls for forgiveness based on being new or busy. Maybe a valid excuse if the product was free but it’s not.

Fail.

Chino replying to a comment from Truc Nitram / February 19, 2012 at 08:34 pm
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Lighten up.

This just opened up so let them get their bearings straight. I hear McDonald's has some amazing toppings and are quick as lightning. Or give it another try in a month. Everyone, even businesses, deserve a second chance.

I'm just glad I can get a banh mi without having to walk up to Chinatown. Yesss!
Truc Nitram / February 21, 2012 at 08:03 am
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I'm pretty light but thanks for the concern.

It's your given right to support and like mediocre product. However, I don't subscribe to that notion, thank-you. Using McDonalds to justify bad and slow service of a sub-standard product is lame. Sorry, it's a business not a hobby. Run it right and offer me something unique with maybe a smile? Too much to ask for? Not for you, apparantly. Good luck with that.

I won't be back, ever.
Cbab replying to a comment from Truc Nitram / February 22, 2012 at 10:41 am
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Their initial opening was a little rocky, but they are closed (and have been for some time) for renos.

What would you suggest in terms of improvements? To what standard are you comparing? There are a lot of fantastic little dives in that area, but none of them are really spectacular in terms of fine dining or haute cuisine. Nor should they be. People in that immediate area are looking for something to hit the spot, not a Michelin Star experience.
Shannon / April 3, 2012 at 12:28 pm
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I had the fried chicken steam bun as well and I thought it was delicious! I've never had it before, but I'll come back when the wait time is a little less than 20 minutes... :)
kurt replying to a comment from Truc Nitram / April 3, 2012 at 12:43 pm
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Truc Nitram must only eat ambrosia and never shits. NEVER. SHITS. EVER.

i've never been to banh mi boys, but i look forward to trying out one of their sandwiches.

btw, macdonald's makes millions of dollars a day, just saying..
v79 / April 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm
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Holy overuse of carrots Batman! That alone means these guys won't get my business.
Cbab / April 3, 2012 at 01:04 pm
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Looking forward to trying them out again, though I'll have to venture in either just when they open/close. Lineups are nearly out the door at any other time.
Andrew / April 3, 2012 at 01:05 pm
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Banh Mi Boys amazing!!!

If you dislike Banh Mi Boys, you dislike food and dining, in general. Or you dislike Banh Mis. Or you just have zero credibility. Banh Mi Boys is an A+. Let the line-up of people out the door tell you what's good. Not this tasteless hack.
JPTN replying to a comment from Truc Nitram / April 3, 2012 at 01:07 pm
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Most likely, he hasn't been back to the newly renovated opening since he just copied/pasted his comment from a December post: http://www.thegridto.com/life/food-drink/banh-mi-boys/
kg replying to a comment from Truc Nitram / April 3, 2012 at 01:24 pm
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I would really like to know where you they have better buns for viet subs and not that hard, cut the top of the mouth stuff found at most places. Truc Nitram, I don't know if you're some competing business, because there seems to be a lot of unwarranted hatred towards this fine establishment. The owner and the staff are extremely nice, a bit on the awkward side, but always with a smile.
As for the review, your description of the kimchi fries, is a bit misleading considering you didn't actually try it. I too was a bit skeptical but having had taken a bite out of my friend's, I will definitely be ordering it too next time.
Foodie / April 3, 2012 at 01:32 pm
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@v79: Really? They don't get your business based on what you call "overuse of carrots" in these photos (which is hardly an overuse at all)? You obviously haven't eaten banh mis, as this is pretty standard. Besides, they're Vietnamese pickled carrots, so they're not bland filler. Just something for you to think about, the next (first?) time you step up to a banh mi counter anywhere.
The Other Neil / April 3, 2012 at 01:49 pm
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I'm a huge banh mi fan and will compare with those I used to get on Nguyen Hue in Saigon for 10,000 dong (50 cents).
Adrock / April 3, 2012 at 02:29 pm
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This place is glorious. The line ups are a bit ridiculous, but my god the sandwiches are great. I recommend the kimchi poutine.
Truc Nitram / April 3, 2012 at 02:34 pm
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First, I don't have unwarranted hate for these people. I'm not in the habit of hating people. I'm just adding my opinion of this place, that's it. I didn't foresee it being such a complicated thing to grasp. Secondly, I'm not a rival business owner. Again, just someone sharing their opinion. If you don't share my opinion...that's great! Give your glowing review, I don't care. Having to reply to my posts and draw me back into some dumb back and forth isn't going to change my opinion of this place one bit. I love Banh Mi's and was stoked to try this spot as soon as it opened. I went in under the full impression that this was going to be something I would love! I've had the privelege of trying street foods abroad and all over North America and this place doesn't stack up. I received cold and ungrateful service and just simply chalking this up to another case of people taking their business and customers for granted. For me this pace is a 7 for concept and about a 4 for service and food. I've had better experiences up the street for cheaper.

I haven't been back since the reno because, as I stated earlier, I won't be back. No need to for me. City is full of options. Also, I don't need flashy decor or branding to win me over either. Maybe others do? What it boils down to is that it doesn't really matter what I think does it? There are already lineups out the door! Kudos to them for casting their net and landing a haul. Truly. Some people think Korean tacos and steamed buns are a revelation. Revel away! Maybe its not really about my tastes? Maybe others just haven't shared the same food experiences as I? The end of the day...who fucking cares? Bon Appetit!
Truc Nitram / April 3, 2012 at 02:35 pm
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First, I don't have unwarranted hate for these people. I'm not in the habit of hating people. I'm just adding my opinion of this place, that's it. I didn't foresee it being such a complicated thing to grasp. Secondly, I'm not a rival business owner. Again, just someone sharing their opinion. If you don't share my opinion...that's great! Give your glowing review, I don't care. Having to reply to my posts and draw me back into some dumb back and forth isn't going to change my opinion of this place one bit. I love Banh Mi's and was stoked to try this spot as soon as it opened. I went in under the full impression that this was going to be something I would love! I've had the privelege of trying street foods abroad and all over North America and this place doesn't stack up. I received cold and ungrateful service and just simply chalking this up to another case of people taking their business and customers for granted. For me this pace is a 7 for concept and about a 4 for service and food. I've had better experiences up the street for cheaper.

I haven't been back since the reno because, as I stated earlier, I won't be back. No need to for me. City is full of options. Also, I don't need flashy decor or branding to win me over either. Maybe others do? What it boils down to is that it doesn't really matter what I think does it? There are already lineups out the door! Kudos to them for casting their net and landing a haul. Truly. Some people think Korean tacos and steamed buns are a revelation. Revel away! Maybe its not really about my tastes? Maybe others just haven't shared the same food experiences as I? The end of the day...who fucking cares? Bon Appetit!
john / April 3, 2012 at 02:47 pm
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Renovations are a definite improvement -- I was concerned that they would have lost so much business by opening in such a shoddy state, originally. Glad to see that doesn't appear to be the case.

The ordering system is much improved since the pre-reno launch, which was shambolic. Food is still pretty great for the prices charged.

My only hope is that they try and work on speed a bit more -- the lines get long awfully quick, and that will cost them customers.
Ho Chi Minh / April 3, 2012 at 02:52 pm
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Way too pricey for Banh Mi....recommend hitting up Banh Mi Nguyen Huong instead.
CT / April 3, 2012 at 03:25 pm
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2 minute walk north and you'll save yourself $2 per sandwich
I was kinda excited to try this place but the prices are not justified.
I won't pay for the hype
burgs / April 3, 2012 at 04:06 pm
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Those sandwiches are all carrots and no meat. I'll keep buying the $2 ones (that have more meat) from the dirty place up the street. They don't even have a tofu one either.



Shawn / April 3, 2012 at 04:11 pm
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Has anyone tried the kimchi fries? I haven't seen one review of them yet but they sound like one of the more interesting menu choices
Johnny on the spot replying to a comment from Truc Nitram / April 3, 2012 at 04:28 pm
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I know this guy works for a rival business. He just doesn't want his business to go under.
ct / April 3, 2012 at 04:53 pm
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what rival business?
its all burger joints in the area

Bao Bao / April 3, 2012 at 05:06 pm
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folks, this is real deal!

i have never been to another restaurant that was so very delicious and tasty. the service is excellent, and staff very very friendly.

i am Vietnamese, and i can tell you that this is very authentic. just like back home.

please visit at 392 Queen St. West.
burgs replying to a comment from Bao Bao / April 3, 2012 at 05:25 pm
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shill
Mr Tien / April 3, 2012 at 05:33 pm
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Banh Mi Boys is my favorite place to go. I welcomed them in my neighbourhood, and it's so nice to go there.

Owner is very nice. The place is clean and flavours are authentic.

You can't get cheaper price any where in Toronto. Please support them. You will feel very glad!
Jen / April 3, 2012 at 05:36 pm
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They make bread fresh every day. It smells so delicious. My favourite place to go.

Why spend money at Mcdonalds when you can get better food here? Place is very clean and run like professionals. Every day I come.

Support them please!
morg replying to a comment from Truc Nitram / April 3, 2012 at 05:53 pm
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Your not just sharing an opinion. You are trying to cut down everyone that goes there and the idea of people having an interest in food and using clever names. God forbid more people get excited by food and open interesting businesses. There are many places in town that don't even try that deserve hate and you are hating on people who actually have an interest in what they do. Any 1 person with 1 good recipe can be successful in this industry and that seems to drive you crazy. Do you have any friends with that attitude?
Caucasian Boy / April 3, 2012 at 06:02 pm
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YAY!

Finally, banh mi for white folk!

...
PDG / April 3, 2012 at 06:43 pm
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I lived in Viet Nam for five years. Banh Mi Sai Gon is street food. Is this supposed to be fusion or something? If you want real Viet food go to Banh Mi Che Cali, at Dundas and Spadina. They have banh mi, banh bao, and REAL Viet food. I think it's silly to dress up a classic.
notofu? / April 3, 2012 at 08:50 pm
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These comments seem to be full of astroturfers praising this place as if the ghost of Ho Chi Minh was holding a gun to their heads to do so and one person who had a bad experience there being attacked for sharing his/her opinion. I love me some Banh Mi but not having a tofu option is lame and where's the cilantro?
Adam / April 3, 2012 at 09:55 pm
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These hipsters have no clue..
kg replying to a comment from notofu? / April 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm
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I'm pretty sure they do have a tofu version. My co-worker who is vegetarian ate thee the other day. The lemongrass tofo...
kg replying to a comment from notofu? / April 3, 2012 at 10:13 pm
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*tofu
Shawn replying to a comment from notofu? / April 3, 2012 at 10:40 pm
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Lemongrass Tofu is the third item on the menu...maybe your diet's lack of meat protein is affecting your vision ;).......What's with the obvious shills at 5:33PM and 5:36PM? Did one of them actually say you can't find cheaper when you can get banh mi for a third of the just north of there (and I'm only talking price here, not taste/quality/whatever)?
ohtofu! / April 3, 2012 at 11:02 pm
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Yeah I should have looked at the pictures closer. I see it now.

But really so many shills. Its pretty obvious Bao Bao (5:06), Mr Tien (5:33) and Jen (5:36) are the same astroturfer. If this is what you need to do to drum up business, chances are your product sucks.
JLL / April 3, 2012 at 11:51 pm
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Good Food. Good Times. Good Friends. Great Bahn Mi!
yyztwinkie / April 4, 2012 at 12:38 am
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Everyone just chill the f@€# out. Foodies be taking themselves way too seriously. If you like it, you like it. If you don't, don't. Have an opinion post it and move on.
champ replying to a comment from yyztwinkie / April 4, 2012 at 01:02 am
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Guess you have a problem with people being passionate. What's up with that?
nightsoil / April 4, 2012 at 09:57 am
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You guys! Don't stop now this comment thread is so close to being submitted to Reddit!
James / April 4, 2012 at 11:05 am
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It's expensive for what it is, but i was willing to give it a try...I ordered and asked for a cup of water alongside my sandwich. I was directed towards bottled water in the fridge. I said no, I'd like a cup of water. They pointed at the bottled water. I said no, I'd like a cup of water. They said they don't have cups because they sell bottled water.

Besides being a tremendous useless waste to the environment, these guys don't know the first fucking thing about customer service. What sort of restaurant won't give a cup of water to customers who don't want to order a drink? Assholes. I'm not here to drive up your bottom line. If you're making money on your overpriced food (one would assume) you can handle the odd customer asking for a cup of water. I told them to forget it and walked out.

Come and Get It right around the corner is incredible (and like every other restaurant in the world, will give you a cup of water upon request). Banh Mi Boys need to get their head out of their ass.
JT / April 4, 2012 at 11:49 am
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haven't been yet, I like the idea of a fusion street food product. I'm just so in love with the Chinatown viet deli meat banh mi, that it's always my first choice. hopefully I can tear myself away to give this one a try.
Mr. Sub / April 4, 2012 at 01:23 pm
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$5 dollar, $5 dollar footlong!
Simma / April 4, 2012 at 04:49 pm
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After the highly anticipated re-opening, I have been multiple times per week. I have tried a lot, but not all items because I've found the items that always hit the spot (chicken taco, kalbi beef, squid sandwhich, kimchi fries and CHERRY FREAKING COKE!). I've brought 10 different colleagues there with me, all of whom enjoy as much as I do. All 11 of us can't be wrong, can we? Any business with a line up of people willing to wait for the food must mean they're doing something right.
HHH replying to a comment from Mr Tien / April 5, 2012 at 04:24 pm
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@Mr Tien. "You can't get cheaper price any where in Toronto." Seriously? what a load of crap. I have not eaten there, but to say that you can't get a Banh Mi for cheaper anywhere else is just bull! No matter how great it tastes, I can't justify paying double for something that I can get up the street (which are delicious). I do hope they succeed, I just can't see myself going there.
robg / April 5, 2012 at 10:37 pm
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The banh mi are so-so, and cost twice as much as comparable banh mi from up the street. really underwhelming.

however, the steamed buns and tacos are amazing and cheaper.



Schoolly / April 6, 2012 at 12:39 am
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You get the Bowzack!!
happyneighbours / April 6, 2012 at 05:16 pm
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I just love this place!! Amazing quick food with fresh and inspiring ingredients. The best part is that it is a family run business that puts passion and hard work into what they do. I for one, will support local small establishments that appreciates my returning business. They already know me by name! Cant wait to go back!!
LMAO replying to a comment from James / April 6, 2012 at 05:23 pm
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Your post made me laugh! You are so cheap...do you make your dates pay for the toilet paper they use when they come over...wait...they would never make it that far.
James replying to a comment from LMAO / April 7, 2012 at 05:49 pm
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good work shill---providing water is something that is done at every food establishment with a tap. Banh Mi Boys are the ones being cheap--but then again, look at the prices they charge for what they provide. that much is already clear
robg / April 10, 2012 at 12:16 am
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I agree with James, I wish the restaurant would stop leaving posts in the same imperfect/broken english about how great the spot is. You're not doing yourself any favours. the food is decent, nothing fantastic, especially if you've eaten a lot of vietnamese or had "korean tacos" at places that make them really well.

however, I repeat the baos are decent and I can't really think of many other places in Toronto that do them like this.

too bad they just copied Baohaus, Eddie Huangs place in NYC.

to be honest, it seems like they are just going through the motions of trying to make great "street food" without really having the passion. the whole thing is just hopping on established trends in cities with deeper food culture.



kim replying to a comment from Ho Chi Minh / April 12, 2012 at 01:54 am
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haven't you heard? Banh Mi Nguyen Huong is their family business :P you can't escape!
yum / June 10, 2012 at 08:58 pm
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kimchi fries are AMAZING! and panko tofu bao was delicious. can't wait to try everything else!
Bolo Yeung / August 3, 2012 at 11:24 am
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The 2 dollar Bánh mi in chinatown are wwwwwaaaaaay. . . . . better over this place. Fact.
John / August 3, 2012 at 03:01 pm
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The food is "OK", nothing special, price is high, service really sucks! The owner is not friendly at all but that could be a cultural thing I guess... Won't ever be back.
Hal LePino replying to a comment from Truc Nitram / September 19, 2012 at 01:54 pm
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Oh, you're one of those people.

DT
Stacy / September 22, 2012 at 12:08 am
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Banh Mi Boys was terrible. I don't even feel like investing the time to make this witty or funny. They should be embarrassed and so should anyone who eats there. I don't even believe their toppings! Identical to the ones in china town except Banh Mi Boys puts less of everything in the sandwich. Less tofu, less veg and less cilantro. We asked for spicy and there was zero spice. Also MAYO! Really? It is the Walmart of Banh Mi. I had to save the worst for last. For what you get at Banh Mi boys, the China town prices wouldn't even be acceptable ($2.50 tax inc), but for a veggie sandwich it is more than twice that price ($5.50+tax). And they won't even give a combo price if you get fries and a drink. Probably my worst dining experience in a long time, and it's not like anything terrible happened, it was just over all plain, boring and expensive.
Ray / October 24, 2012 at 03:01 am
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*****AWESOME FOOD*****

Been there enough to know that Kalbi Beef Taco, Bao or Bahn Mi are all AMAZING. Service is always polite, cheerful and quick even when it's busy, its not that long of a wait for your food. I always get Kimichi fries with my girlfriend with extra pork and they never disappoint!

We always get our food with medium or medium hot extra spice for everything. AND, everything goes down nice with a legit can of Cherry Coca Cola for a good price as well!

The only con of this place is the size because it really can get crowded to the point where vultures of people wait till you leave one of the 5 small tables inside if you wish to eat there. Otherwise, better off buying your food for take out and then going to McDonalds right beside it to buy a drink if you wish, and eat your food there!
Jay / January 15, 2013 at 02:39 pm
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Its meh. Its something new to try and it is something different so the concept is pretty neat but it does not taste better than the cheap $2 ones you buy. (You're basically looking at authentic style Banh Mi's and comparing it to a westernize version).

Although the price does not factor into how good it taste, it is a big factor for many in terms of having a bang for your buck and I did not get my bang for my buck that I paid.

The service is mediocre, its not the greatest but its not the worst. You can't really expect too much.

"Banh Mi for white folks" pretty much sums it up.
fiddleton / March 27, 2013 at 11:49 pm
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"Banh Mi for white folks" ? fair enough. But all said, everything i've had there has been great. And I would be very into knowing what places serve up better fare..
Nguyen / April 13, 2013 at 12:47 am
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I must admit, i was really skeptical when they first opened. I am vietnamese and grew up eating banh mi all the time, so i thought this was going to be an over-rated trending place selling unjustifyingly at a higher price than what you would get in chinatown. But i gave it a shot, and i like what they got going on. It's not your traditional-style banh mi, as they have ingredients such as duck confit, kalbi beef, and kimchi. It's a more 'westernized' and fancy version of banh mi, and so i think the price is fair. Everytime i go here, i get the pork belly steamed bao and the kalbi beef taco, and they are very tasty. I dont buy from Nguyen Huong in chinatown anymore, despite the fact that they are only $2. The meat is of poor quality and i don't like looking at the blocks of butter and pate (if you've been there, you know what i'm talking about). Anyway, there is a reason why BMB is doing well, and i think it definitely adds variety to the queen/spadina corner. Hats off to them!
Alex / June 11, 2013 at 05:24 pm
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The kimchi fries were absolute an amazing mix of American and Korean culture. It's a must try at banh mi boys. Although the banh mi was good, I'd have to say other authentic banh mi restaurants in the mississauga area beat it and only cost 2$ too!
charles / June 17, 2013 at 07:23 pm
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Wow people really complain about BMB being $2 more expensive than their counterparts up the street. Are people just cheap? strapped for cash? or want value for their money?

I'm thinking it's the latter, but more of a combination of all 3.

I've had both and I eat at both, but $2 isn't worth trekking 5mins up and down the street when I'm hungry. If people are really complaining about BMB prices, they should stay home and make food for themselves and save money. I will never understand this.
DumpsterTrash / July 5, 2013 at 10:49 am
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Every walk behind BMB? Their garbage is piled high, stinks, rats rummaging through it, as it is not properly taken care of. Wonder what their kitchen is like behind closed doors. Do they realize they can pay for private pickup to help clean up the neighborhood. Ah, they are too cheap...(that's where they should put the extra $2 they are charging everyone)
jennifer / August 29, 2013 at 08:48 pm
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Had the duck confit sandwich and the tofu/kimchi topped french fries....and I can still taste them...they were delicious. Well-priced, fast service....heads above any other fast food place with no imagination.
white trash / May 8, 2014 at 11:46 pm
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LOL I'm viet and all you white hipsters that enjoy this place let me tell you..it's the taco bell version of real authentic viet food.

kimichi fries omfg..talk about a great way to scam $7 off white folks cuz that's certainly viet food.

Go get real viet food hipsters.
jay / May 11, 2014 at 04:16 pm
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Best sandwich I ever ate was one I made myself..... Grain bread,chicken double breast, turkey bacon, spinach, mushrooms, jalapenos ,egg white ,hot sauce and salsa. Did I mention it's also healthy?
V-Unit / June 5, 2014 at 09:12 pm
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Re: "white trash", first I'll qualify myself by stating that I, too, am Viet (like so many others?) so this somehow gives me a smug sense of superiority any time Vietnamese food comes up.

Oookay but really - if you've actually stepped inside this place it's clientele is most certainly not just dedicated to 'white hipsters'. The food is decent. Sure kimchi fries are fusion food, just like so many other dishes you'll find in the GTA. Maybe expand on your myopic view of culinary chauvinism and you might find you'll enjoy some #fusion-spinoff dishes, authenticity be damned.

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