It was Day 17th of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. Arkensen and Nanzaro was getting all excited about this big day when they will perform in the Closing Ceremony. The Closing Ceremony does not start until 5:30PM but they need to report at their station at 11:30AM.
For Suanne and I, the plan of the day is centered around watching the Canada-USA gold medal hockey game and the Closing Ceremony on TV at home. After dropping the boys off and wishing them to break a leg, we thought we quickly grab a sandwich from Ba Le and go back for the game with time to spare.
We went to the location on Kingsway and Fraser. Their other location is in Chinatown. BTW, is the name Ba Le mean Paris in Vietnamese?
Ba Le is well known f0r the Vietnamese baguette. Between the Chinatown location and this location, you MUST come to this location. This is because …
… Ba Le had just started operation of their new expensive oven just a few weeks ago. As reported on Chowhound, the owners had this industrial sized oven imported from France and had the baker sent to France to learn to use the oven too.
Just as we were to place our order, we saw them taking out a freshly baked batch of baguette from the oven. It smell so good that we told ourselves we are going stay and eat in Ba Le … on one of the three small tables just next to the oven.
We counted that batch that just came out. It was 200 baguettes in those trays. It seems like they make a lot … more than a thousand for sure. Looking at the operation here, I am sure they make this and sell it to other restaurants. We were wondering if they do sell just the freshly baked baguette to walk-in customers.
The picture above was deceptively quiet. It was all about angle and timing! There were a lot of customers lining up for their orders. A lot of them obviously taking out for the hockey gold medal game because they were wearing Team Canada jerseys. I had never seen such lines for Banh Mi before. The assembly station was extremely busy and somewhat chaotic. I can see that all four people were working heads down trying to keep up with all the orders.
Suanne observed that the man who was taking the orders (and handling the money) uses his hands to pick up the food too.
They have ten different types of sandwiches on the board. They are all about $3 to $4. Besides the baguettes, they also sell a lot of other Vietnamese delicacies. People come here for the baguettes.
We got two sandwiches to share. Selecting one of them is easy … it was the one that is simply called the Special sandwich (right). The other one was the meatier Grilled Pork sandwich.
The baguette has the nice golden look to it. The slashes is shallow and the crust thin. Light and airy, it crumples easily when pressed.
So, I was complaining to Suanne that she does not know how to eat sandwiches. You see, she just has to press the sandwich each time she takes a bite. It was reflexes I know but this makes her sandwich all flat like sliced bread by the time it was half-finished. Ohhh … I can’t stand that. LOL!
The Grilled Pork Sandwich ($3.50) had that moist pork pieces which was slightly … spicy. We thought it was not a lot of it but understand that the hero of this Banh Mi is not the grilled pork but the baguette and the balance of the filings. Yeah, this is the kind of sandwich one would eat with eyes closed and mmm’ing all the way along.
The Special is $3.25. There are different types of ham, cold cut. With the crunchy pickled daikon and fresh ingredients like carrot, cilantro and chili it presents a refreshing and contrasting taste of freshness, heat and cold.
Do one judge the goodness of baguettes by the crumbs it leaves? It was messy eating this but I had worse. I think the reason is the thinness of the baguette they make in Ba Le.
We also ordered a Vietnamese Coffee ($3) which they forgot about. We had to remind them but they were genuinely so taken up keeping up with the stream of customers. Not many people came here for the coffee, that’s why.
From the picture on the board, we thought they would serve this with the usual Vietnamese drip.
Before we left, we picked up a couple of different things for breakfast the next morning.
You should check out the Banh Mi in Ba Le … I think you will like it as much as the customers who queued everyday at the deli do.
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Am I dreaming or is the first pic of the 2 banh mi moving?
It happens once in a while on chowtimes. It’s a phenomenon you observe when you read the site with a hungry stomach. Makes you want to bite the computer monitor, doesn’t it? LOL!
Ryan – the banh mi was moving towards me so I took a bite of it 😉
BEN – congrats, you finally made it to Ba-Le. I always ask for extra cilantro and pickled daikon & carrots, but pass on the butter and chili peppers. Nothing like a cheap, all-in-one meal.
I may have mentioned before this other Vietnamese/Chinese bakery (Tung Hing Bakery) further east at the corner of Inverness that’s also good for banh mi’s: http://bit.ly/aHVIj9
And speaking of which, the Cantonese noodle restaurant on the opposing corner (Hoy’s) is very good and cheap. Been there for 25+ years …… generous portions, low prices on good old stand-by congees, noodles, rice dishes etc.
Hi LotusRapper: So that is Tung Hing. I remember that distinctive green signboard along Kingsway but never quite remember the name. Tung Hing is easier to remember. Will check it out one of these days. Hoy’s sounds like a place that the boys will like.
Oh my goodness I’m starving now!! By the way, I don’t like squishing sandwiches or burgers either. It compresses the texture of the buns!
My favourite Banh Mi shop! Nice to see they bake their own bread now. Whenever I get a chance I pick up a few for Viv and I as a “snack”. Now I want to go now!
Hi Sherman: Frankly, I don’t fancy Banh Mi before it is so … light but ever since this one in Ba Le, I realize that there are a lot more places like Ba Le. Ben
AHAH ditto on the moving 2 bahn mi. Gosh…I’m starving looking at these too! HAHA
It’s 11:26am and my stomach is growling :-/
BTW Ben, Hoy’s (as mentioned in my above post) can be seen in the left-most edge of the Google Streetview shot. Very decent fried rice ….. the boys will approve.
Ditto on the two moving banh mi :). But you told us your trick in making us hungry already!
I find it funny that the special is less expensive than the grilled pork- “wrong” description for it but I know what special is supposed to mean.
I press the sandwich if it is too giant. The grilled pork banh mi looks just right for me though.
Ba Le doesn’t mean Paris in Vietnamese. Depending on what the accents are on the words, it could me mrs/ms le or 3 le. Vietnamese just say Pa ris for the Vietnamese pronunciation.
Yes, the dreaded: the man who was taking the orders (and handling the money) uses his hands to pick up the food too.
Hey Ben, I’m caught in a bahn mi contest between you and Tana !
There is also a Ba Le French Sandwich shop located by the T&T in Guilford. Any idea if they are affiliated with the 2 shops in Vancouver?
I love Ba Le. I practically grew up on it.
I’ve had the grilled pork a couple times. It’s a bit of a hit or miss I guess, but having that new oven definitely helps.
BaLe doesnt mean Paris in Vietnamese. It sounds more like a person’s name to me and Im fairly sure that what it is =)
In my humble opinion, BaLe is definitely a place to go to if you want good, cheap and fast Vnmese subs.
If you have a little more time and patience, I say Au Petit is worth the lineup. The quality of the meat there is better, more flavorful and I would say very close to subs in Vietnam. That, and better presentation is a plus, too. I also like how they only have a limited amount of subs sold per day so if you don’t call ahead to “reserve” or show up early enough, you don’t get any.
To me, BaLe and TungHing are similar in terms of value and taste. Both are pretty decent =)
He he he. Thanks Kiki (and Van Pham): I saw the Eiffel Tower in the logo and plus that the name Ba Le sounded like Pah-Ree that I thought it might have meant Paris. Thanks for the confirmation. BTW, we had been to Au Petit before and had their famous Banh Mi before http://chowtimes.com/2008/12/06/au-petit-on-main-street-and-33rd-vancouver/
I’m thinking it might be a pun: Ba Le having both meanings – especially since the diacritical accents are omitted from the actual logo.
The origin of “Ba Le” is discussed here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/269669
Ba Le is a common name for Banh Mi places since there is a famous chain in Vietnam. Unrelated (AFAIK) shop named “Ba Le” sprouted all over the world. Some of them are related, but some are not…and confusingly, the all seem to use the Eiffel Tower logo.
The Chinatown Ba Le is NOT affiliated with the Fraser/Kingsway Ba Le. according to the shop-owners.
Interesting. The owners of the Kingsway location told me otherwise. I wonder which story is true. I may head over there soon to ask again. Again adding to the generic usage of the Ba Le name.
I was reading your chowhound article and realized how generic that Ba Le name is. Never thought of it that way. Thanks for the link.
so yesterday i went to BaLe at Kingsway/Fraser (i live 2 minutes away!) and asked again re: Chinatown BaLe. Chinatown BaLe is NOT part of Fraser/Kingsway BaLe, but they are cousins. And the original T&T BaLe was opened by an employee of Kingsway Ba Le.
Great info miraj k. It sounds like none of the Ba Le are related in a business sense. I did ask them if they supplied baguette to the Main St branch and she confirmed…but now I am left wondering.
So yet again, a generic use of “Ba Le”. Clearly trademark infringement is not an issue.
oh forgot to add. Kingsway Ba Le DOES supply baguettes to Chinatown Ba Le & few other Banh-Mi shops in metro vancouver.
And he said that ‘Ba Le’ Kingsway was named after some family member of the shop-owner. I guess Ba Le is kind of common Vietnamese name, i.e. ‘Joe’ or ‘Smith’ in North America. Hence the Various “Ba Le” shops all over!
Regardless of whether “Ba Le” is truly symbolic of Paris or not, the one indisputable fact is the banh mi bun is a direct legacy of French colonialism.
“Banh Mi” is Vietnamese for bread, derived from the French term “Pain de Mie”.
On a related note, “pho” is Vietnamese translation of “French word feu” (fire).
LotusRapper has just told me about this place a few weeks ago. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. The one on Main Street is much close to me than this one. But this location looks smokin’ hot. The fresh baked bagguettes are great! They will make all the difference. Can’t believe the grilled pork sandwich only cost $3.50. Almost the same price as the iced coffee. lol. Great affordable sub! Thanks for sharing.
Uh oh ……..
Uh oh? I am not following … 🙂
It was cheekily directed at Tana 😀
O’ahu has Bale too. the logo looks the same… anyway, i love the one in hawai’i. i always get the tofu because it is just as good as the ones with meat.
Do they have Spam versions ?!? :-O
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Is there any good places to get Vietnamese sandwiches around Metrotown/Highgate area? With all the herbs and veggies on them? There are a few restaurants that have the sandwiches, but they are so skimpy on the herbs and veggies, that it always feels lacking.
There use to be a place on Royal Oak and Kingsway, but they closed.
Karen – the *only* Vietnamese restaurant I know of in the Metrotown area is in Old Orchard Centre on the NW corner of Kingsway and Willingdon. Forget the name. It’s tucked in the far back corner.
Other than that, the closest are Pho 99 and Pho Hong further east along Kingsway
“Suanne observed that the man who was taking the orders (and handling the money) uses his hands to pick up the food too.”
That’s gross. I don’t think I’ll be returning to Bale, and it’s too bad because I liked the sandwiches. But thanks for that information though– appreciate it.
Angela, if you only saw (and knew) how many restaurants, and the people behind the scenes in those places, violate even the simplest health codes, you’d swear you’ll never eat out again.
The reality is, these food handling/safety violations probably happen in all restaurants/eateries, every single day, to one degree or another. Check this out:
Yes, I never really stopped to think about it. When one does, it’s rather disturbing.
Thanks for the site. I bookmarked it and I think I may try to make it a habit to check it before I eat out. It is very unsettling to read that Nuba has “Mouse droppings noted behind cookline in back kitchen / prep area and around the booster tank for the main dishwasher.”
I hope at least establishments make the effort to rectify the violations, though I have a feeling that to believe that would be incredibly naive…*sigh*. Well, at least it’s a good thing I don’t eat out that often.
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Is that last picture of a chip with vietnamese ham and garlic with dipping sauce? I have eaten something similar in Hong Kong and have yet to find it in Vancouver. Please someone let me know what this is called?