LunchBa Le French Sandwich


When most people think of a sandwich, you might think about a chain like Quizno’s or Subways. A Vietnamese shop would not normally be what pops into mind. However, thanks to decades of French colonialism, the Vietnamese have developed a tasty sandwich combining the classic French baguette with Vietnamese cold cuts and preserved vegetables. An unlikely but tasty marraige of flavours and textures.

Tucked away on the edge of Chinatown on Main street next to some salons and one of the dodgiest open parking lots in the city sits Ba Le — a Vietnamese French sandwich shop. The shop is nondescript and could easily be missed if you aren’t actively looking for it. Case dragged me down here with the promise of some seriously great sandwiches. I had my doubts.

However, since one of our favourite Vietnamese sandwich shops had burned to the ground a couple years back, we’ve been looking for a fix ever since. Upon entering, you’re greeted by an almost barren room. The front of the store is scattered with some slightly run-down tables and chairs. A pastry cooler / food display separates the back of the room which is basically a bunch of fold out table with two lone figures working away at assembling these sandwiches in an assembly line manner. They’re surrounded by piles and piles of what looks like freshly baked French baguettes.

Both Case and I ordred “The Special” — which I believe, is basically the works (Vietnamese cold cuts, some ground meats, fresh cilantro, julienned preserved carrots and radish). The mark of a good Vietnamese sandwich shop is when the proprietor asks if you’d like hot peppers with your sandwich — to which you answer yes. Case reaches into the cooler and pulls out a plastic cup of gelatinous goo sprinkled with yellow specks topped with a creamy substance. It’s a yellow bean pudding she informs me and assures me is delicious.

They don’t joke around at Ba Le. As we sat and munched away at our sandwiches, we see a steady rotation of people walking into the store, ordering and shortly walking out with a grocery bag full of sandwiches. As I dig into the sandwich, I can taste the freshness in the crispy baguette. The cold cuts and crunchiness of the preserved vegetables may seem like an odd match, but are tasty and surprsingly light. As for the yellow bean pudding — score one for Case — it is indeed delicious. It has a tapioca-like texture and a nutty flavour from the bean.

The price is right too — at $3.50 — “The Special” is the most expensive sandwich on the menu. If ghetto ambience isn’t your thing, that’s quite alright. Most people opt for takeout.

The Details

#121-633 Main Street


#21-701 Kingsway

Ba Le Sandwich Shop on Urbanspoon

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