The latest trend in cuisine seems to be ethnic street food. It’s fast, filling, cheap, and flavorful. Though the owners would rightly deny being part of any trend, Le’s Pho and Sandwiches has become a successful member of this multicultural culinary community. Need proof? Look no further than their Court Street location, where tables are full and weekday lunch carryout business is brisk.
What’s fascinating about spicy Vietnamese food is the French influence. The banh mi sandwich is a great example of how two cultures can merge in a familiar fast food. It starts with a French baguette and adds spicy beef, pork, chicken, and/or pâte, mayo, pickled veggies, jalapeño, and cilantro. There’s definitely some magic in mixing these flavors to add the exotic and sophisticated to the common sandwich.
Pho, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is a hearty rice-noodle soup that’s a mainstay of the Vietnamese diet and made with either chicken or beef broth (though Le’s uses only the latter), to which you can add beef or meatballs. Maybe its popularity here stems from Cincinnati being a soup kind of town that’s missing soup kinds of restaurants. You’ll find a few other specialties at Le’s, mostly centered around meat and noodles, but you won’t find the big menu we’ve come to expect from Asian places. This is simple, fast, and unique. Owners Hai Bui and Le Ha have used various culinary ventures to introduce Vietnamese cuisine around town for over 30 years. Judging by the crowds at Le’s, they’ve finally hit us squarely in the stomach with a lunch that’s light on the wallet.
Le’s Pho and Sandwiches, 3 E. Court St., downtown, (513) 721-9700
Originally published in the February 2014 issue.