The two best things about fast food are portability and price. I want eats on the cheap that I can pick up and take home where nobody stares at me if (when) I spill special sauce on my sweatshirt. But sometimes I want something different. I want cuisine with an ethnic flair but a modicum of the mundane. The Vietnamese fare at Baguette Deli--housed in a strip mall next to Fred Meyer on Franklin--is both foreign and familiar.
Very little visually distinguishes Baguette Deli from a typical franchise sandwich shop: It has a smattering of unremarkable tables and chairs and the two walls of windows look out over a parking lot. It even shares the main menu item of a Subway or Blimpie: sandwiches. But the similarities end at roast beef, pastrami and egg salad options. Baguette uses ciabatta and baguettes baked at the nearby Orient Market, and offers the likes of thit nuong, trung ga or cha lua. The dac biet, or house special ($3.25), holds pickled carrots and onions julienned into bite-sized strips. Long flat slices of pork loaf and pate. Thick slices of the cerise-tinged pork, usually served with seeds and hot mustard in Chinese restaurants. Round teacup-sized slices of pink-and-white salami. Kelly green cilantro leaves. Twelve inches of white-and-gold baguette so soft inside, the ingredients sink into pillowy dough. It's fresh, interesting and safe.
Sandwiches can be washed down with a soda but are better complemented by a Vietnamese-style coffee ($2.50), boba tea ($2.50) or a smoothie ($2.75), which comes in a variety of flavors including avocado. Or, from the cooler near the counter, pull out a canned Asian energy drink, banana-flavored grass juice, soy beverage, coconut milk or a tiny green bottle of an aloe drinks.
A foot-long sandwich will fill a hunger hole, but it's tough to resist supplementing with a fried egg roll (85 cents) or a shrimp and pork goi cuon or spring roll ($3.25): shredded lettuce, cilantro, white noodles, paper-thin slices of pork and shrimp, wrapped with tight hospital corners in rubbery translucent rice paper accompanied by a cup of thick, sweet mahogany-brown peanut sauce.
Next to the cash register, there might be a pan of beignets ($2.50 for four) or, on occasion, an off-menu, unlabeled sweet like five shiny white round cakes and a packet of sesame seeds ($2.50). The petite girl behind the counter said she didn't know what to call them in English. "In my language, they translate to cow cakes," she said, blushing. "Cow cakes is the closest I can say." Milky and slightly sweet, the cakes offered an odd not altogether unpleasant dichotomy of chewy and crunchy.
Sometimes I want fast food that is different but not too different. I want exotic but I want it wrapped up in something recognizable. Baguette Deli is on my way home.
--Amy Atkins carries a Tide pen with her when she goes out to eat.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Baguette Deli.