Thursday, February 3, 2011

Library Lunch: Le's Cafe

It seems like banh mi is the new big thing. With the opening of Pho Lang Thang in the Findlay Market, many more Cincinnattians are being exposed to the deliciousness of Vietnamese food. If you work downtown and can't make it up to the Findlay Market, or if Pho Lang Than is just too busy for your likings, there is another option for you.

Little known to most folks, the main branch of the Cincinnati is home to Le's Cafe, a small shop and food joint where you can find a wide variety of food, including the mythical banh mi. I want to thank Cincinnati Bites for the post about Le's Cafe. If not for this post, I probably never would have given the tiny little eatery a chance, even though I'm at the library several times a week.

(Tiny, little Le's Cafe)

I had stopped by once before and, to my disappointment, they were not serving banh mi on that day. I left that day wearing a sad face and filed the idea in my head for another day. The wonderful photographer Thadd had a post a couple weeks ago about the banh mi there and it jumpstarted the memory (by the way, check out his post for much better pictures). I decided to give it a whirl again last week and this time I had much more luck.

I saw 'banh mi' on the little whiteboard they have their special on and gave a little squeal of delight (not really, but I could have). I ordered one of them and a small order of a noodle dish whose name I am forgetting because it is 6:30 and I don't have enough coffee yet. Maybe lo mein. They were out of cilantro and hot peppers for the sandwich, which are a huge part of its flavor profile, but I gave it a go anyways. 

Between the sandwich, the noodle dish and a bottle of Diet Coke, how much did my meal come to? $6.45. Yes, six dollars and forty five cents. You are not reading that incorrectly. The sandwich was $3.00, the noodles $2.00, and the Diet Coke $1.45. The value of this lunch is unbeatable. I happily had my lunch rung up and skipped back to the office to fill my belly.

(My phone takes horrible photos)

I tackled the lo mein first and while it was not the best I've ever had and perhaps was reheated, it was still pretty darn good. Definitely better than $2.00 worth of good. There was a good amount of chicken in it. The banh mi was the star of this show, however. 

Even missing those two ingredients, this sandwich was delicious. I'll definitely say it is one of the best I've had since moving to Cincinnati. The baguette was good, but was really a delivery mechanism for the amazing-ness inside of it. There are so many flavors going on here; from the smoky taste of the pork loin and cold cuts, to the creaminess of the pate- mayo mixture, to the sharpness of the shredded carrots and crunch of the cucumbers. Note that this sandwich was tremendous even without the addition of two key ingredients. With cilantro and hot peppers, it would be a veritable taste bomb.

I'm going to put it out there and just say it: at $3.00, the banh mi at Le's Cafe is without a doubt the best lunchtime deal in downtown Cincinnati. Perhaps even within the city limits. I will be back again and again. If you're at the library around lunch time, go give Le's Cafe a look. They're nice, they make a hell of a sandwich, and it won't lighten your wallet much.

Le's Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. Beats a five dollar footlong for sure! I am now likewise inspired to go try the bahn mi.

  2. Le's is delicious! Great post! And great photos too!
    Thanks for the shout-out. :)

  3. Thanks, you two. It is sooo good and sooo cheap. Writing this up actually gave me a craving, so I had to have one for lunch (plus a small spicy chicken). $5.00! It doesn't even make sense.

  4. Great review, Josh! Glad you were able to get there on a day that the Banh Mi was available.

  5. Great review. Love the spot and service with a smile is great. Prices are as delicious as the food! Must try spot! Hidden treasure in downtown cincinnati!