Finding a good bánh mì just got easier with the opening of 545 Degree Bánh Mì Café in a strip mall in Davie, specializing in the kind of Vietnamese street food traditionally sold from push carts.
Bánh mì subs are inspired by French products (bread, charcuterie and pate) made Vietnamese with chiles, herbs and pickles. Milk pearl tea with “bubbles” of chewy tapioca is another street snack. At this shop you can get both. The walls are hung with blown-up black-and-white photos of street scenes in Hue, the old imperial capital.
Owner Minh Trang runs the place with the help of several uncles and his mother, Ana, in the kitchen. His parents are from Hue, but after the war they were relocated to a rural village south of Saigon where he was born. His father farmed coffee and his mom had a coffee shop.
In 1992, when Trang was 9, the family was given political asylum and were sponsored by a church in Iowa where they husked corn and worked in factories. After studying business management and marketing at the University of Iowa he came to South Florida, opened some panini shops, and eventually brought the whole family.
545 is the temperature bread is baked in traditional coal ovens, but here a gas oven is used with bit of water added to cool the oven and create a good crust with a springy interior. Baguettes can be viewed through the glass of what resembles a large bakery cart in front of the open kitchen.
Everything is made in-house, including headcheese made from the snouts, tongue and leg muscle of pigs. This is featured in the dac bit or “the works” bánh mì with pork roll, BBQ pork and pate moistened with mayo and stuffed with pickled shreds of carrot and daikon with cucumber, jalapeño and cilantro.
Bánh means anything starchy from rice and noodles to buns and cakes, and mì means wheat. There’s also lemongrass grilled pork; Korean BBQ beef, curry tofu and marinated grilled chicken subs.
Grab-and-go items include bun that nuong (rice vermicelli with grilled pork strips) with salad, peanuts, mint, bean sprouts and a fish sauce dressing for mixing everything. Bánh beo are open-face rice cakes with minced chicken and scallions. Spring rolls are wrapped in rice paper with rice vermicelli and shrimp.
Or make a meal of an avocado or jackfruit smoothie with boba pearls or three-bean parfait with coconut milk and agar jelly shreds.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.