On a recent trip to the East Village I decided to stop for lunch at Baoguette, a chain of Vietnamese-style sandwich shops run by Michael Huynh (of Bia Garden among others). I hadn’t really planned on stopping there, because in my previous research I hadn’t seen a vegetarian option on the menu, but when I walked by there it was on the menu: the Veguette. It’s a sandwich made with kung pao style soy protein, loaded up with pickled vegetables and cilantro.
Baoguette smelled amazing inside — lime, chile, cilantro, and other Vietnamese food smells permeated the air. I took a seat at a large wooden table in the window and a server made her way to me through the crowd. I couldn’t quite figure out how to pronounce “veguette” so I ordered “the vegetarian sandwich” extra spicy. I love spicy food and I usually find that at restaurants I need to order it extra hot to get moderate spice. My sandwich came out pretty quickly, and I eagerly bit into it.
This has got to be a contender for the best vegetarian sandwich in the city. The soy protein is crispy on the outside, but dense and chewy on the inside, plus it’s incredibly flavorful. As in any good banh mi the ingredients all balance each other perfectly, and the mix of temperatures and textures elevate the sandwich to something spectacular. It really hits all four of the Southeast Asian palate: salty, sour, sweet, and spicy. Speaking of spicy, on my first bite I was a bit disappointed with the level of spice. Two minutes later I had tears running down my face from how spicy it was. They don’t play games with the spice at Baoguette. It was actually a bit too spicy for me — next time I think I’ll go for medium spicy.
After reluctantly finishing the sandwich my mouth was still on fire, and i remembered that a Pinkberry had opened just up the block. A few years ago it seemed like frozen yogurt shops were opening on every block throughout the city, but somehow I had managed to avoid them. Nothing sounded better than frozen yogurt to cool off my tongue, so I went for it. The server behind the counter gave me a free sample of the plain yogurt, which immediately put out the fire, and then she gave me a sample of mango-flavored yogurt which was great. I ended up getting a small mango with bananas, pineapple, and mochi. It was all good but even a small was a little but too much for me.
Although Pinkberry really hit the spot, it’s Baoguette that I remember most. Just writing this post is making me hungry for another sandwich right now. I don’t know if the meat sandwiches are as good, but I can’t say enough good things about the Veguette. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into with the spice.
Baoguette — 37 St. Marks Pl
Pinkberry — 24 St. Marks Pl