UPDATE: This restaurant has permanently closed.
Nestled in the business district of Farrugut West in DC is a new sandwich shop specializing in traditional Vietnamese sandwiches -- bahn mi. They call themselves "BONMi." Bahn mi is actually a Vietnamese term for bread, but is typically used to refer to a sandwich found in Vietnamese bakeries and cafes that consist of a baguette filled with cooked protein and raw vegetables.
BONMi was developed by a New York consulting firm, JBH Advisory Group, that specializes in food and beverage programs. The concept was developed over the course of two years and shortly thereafter BONMi was born. After only having been open a few months, Zach and I wanted to check it out so we headed over for lunch.
Inside the cafe, the wood interior imparts a warm feel. As I approached the counter, I noticed the cheery employees happily dishing up the fillings for each sandwich. When it was my turn, I asked if the bread was vegan and the guy behind the counter immediately rattled off all of the ingredients. That was impressive. Then, the manager told me she was 99% sure the bread was vegan so I took my chances. There are actually two vegan bahn mi sandwiches here -- you have your choice of chili garlic tofu or butternut squash. I chose the chili garlic tofu. We also grabbed some summer rolls and a drink.
At BONMi, almost everything is made in-house, from the proteins to the sauces. The only thing they don't make is the bread, which is made by Lyon Bakery. I grabbed one of their fresh lemonades, which was pretty good.
We took a seat in the dining room and started by trying the butternut squash summer roll. The butternut squash was soft and tasty while the mint, julienned vegetables, and rice vermicelli were very fresh. We liked it, but didn't realize we hadn't grabbed a sauce until we ate most of it. Once we added the hoisin sauce, it was perfect.
The bahn mi was fairly good. The tofu was marinated in chili, sugar, and shallots, but it didn't have a strong taste. On most of the sandwiches, they use a spicy mayonnaise, but, unfortunately, they do not have a vegan alternative. So, my sandwich had lightly seasoned tofu without any spread, which left much to be desired. The toppings, on the other hand, were very fresh -- cilantro, carrots, cucumber, and jalapenos, and the toasted bread was good too. I slathered it in Sriracha to give it more flavor, which worked out okay.
I had read in the Washington Post article that they offered vegan nut-based desserts, however, I was informed that the writer for the Post had incorrectly cited them as vegan as they are made with honey. So, unfortunately, I wasn't able to try their little treats.
In the end, I loved the concept -- simple, quick, fresh food at reasonable prices. The sandwich was only $6.25 and the summer roll was only $2.50 -- pretty affordable! Now, they just need to add a spicy vegan mayonnaise-based spread to their sandwiches and I think they'd be perfect. I actually spoke to the Manager, Christine Stachitas, after I ate to suggest this and she was very receptive. I look forward to seeing how their vegan offerings develop. Be Good. Do Good.
900 19th Street NW
Washington, DC 20006