Ba Le, a staple in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for more than 20 years, has opened its first downtown location in the Loop, offering diners the chance to experience the quickly growing banh mi trend in Chicago.
Ba Le has long been a go-to spot for French-Vietnamese sandwiches, also known as banh mi. It was founded by Le Vo, who sold banh mi at his drink stand in the 1950s in Saigon before opening his first Ba Le bakery in San Jose, Calif., in 1982. Seeking less competition, he set up shop in Chicago in 1988. His daughter carries on the family tradition, handcrafting sandwiches the way her father taught her to.
At Ba Le, customers choose their meat, like boneless rib-eye steak, crispy sautéed shrimp, or lemongrass pork, which is placed on a fresh baguette. Then, it’s topped with a delicious combination of mayo, picked daikon and carrot, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and fish sauce. The result is a savory, filling sandwich with delightfully tangy flavors.
Although Ba Le’s new sandwich shop is a recent addition to downtown, the banh mi trend has been spreading rapidly in the Windy City. Other notable banh mi shops include Nhu Lan, which like Ba Le makes its own baguettes on-site. Other top banh mi spots include Del Seoul in Lincoln Park and Saigon Sisters downtown.
The latest location joins the Chinatown location on Archer Avenue and the Uptown location on North Broadway Street. A fourth location is slated to open in Uptown on North Broadway Street this spring.
Ashlry Henshaw is the Chicago Travel City Editor at The Daily Meal.