Banh mi, oh my

dscn32511As classic New York sandwiches–the Italian sub, pastrami on rye, cubano–get more expensive, a new contender is giving them a run for their money. Banh mi, a Vietnamese baguette filled with pork and pickled vegetables, is here to stay, and the best budget banh mi I’ve had is in Brooklyn.

Ba Xuyen (4222 8th Ave, Brooklyn–map) brings a taste of Vietnam to Brooklyn’s Chinatown, just east of Sunset Park. For a mere $3.75 you get a freshly toasted 10 inch baguette piled with roast pork, shredded carrots, daikon, green peppers, jalapenos, mayonnaise, hot sauce, and cilantro, which overflows out the top.

dscn3248The result is an intense mixture of sweet, salty, and spicy flavor. The crisp shredded vegetables are the perfect contrast to the tender slices of meat, and the baguette–crunchy on the outside with a soft middle–wraps it all up splendidly. If you’re not from the neighborhood, the N express train is a quick shot out to 36th St. and 4th Avenue, and the walk from there to Ba Xuyen takes you through hilly Sunset Park, which affords a great view over west Brooklyn to the river and Manhattan.

A romantic taco at Sunset

mThis far from the border, authentic Mexican food is harder to come by than a seat on the rush hour 4 train. But the Mexican community in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park has proven that, in fact, you can take it with you.

The best of the barrio is Tacos Matamoros (4508 5th Avenue, Brooklyn–map), where you can load up on delicious tacos for $1-2 a piece. It’s a homey family restaurant that’s great for a casual meal. And it’s just a block from Sunset Park itself, so on a nice day you can grab your tacos to go, spread out on the grass, and actually watch the sun set.

tacosMatamoros boasts a vast range of meat fillings to sample. The tastiest options are the pork—carnitas (spicy), al pastor (rotisserie), and chorizo (sausage). But you can also experiment with different flavors of chicken and beef. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try the crispy and salty sensations that are the tripa, lengua, and cabeza. That’s tripe, tongue, and brain. Remember, we’re in a recession. Why let those tasty morsels go to waste?