|The new banh mi in Ellicott City|
Cafe au Lait is a relatively new counter-service shop doing breakfast and lunch with sandwiches and a soup of the day. Lulu V turned me onto banh mi with a comment, and the '34 Act Gourmet and I were eating them less than three hours later.
These fill a gap that I wrote about in 2010. Plus, they were good sandwiches for $8 -- fresh bread filled with meats and a mix of fresh and pickled vegetables. Between us and the takeout that I got for Mrs. HowChow, we ate all three versions: "banh mi" with sliced ham and pork roll along with a "grilled pork" and "lemongrass chicken." They had rich flavor and the contrasting bites of Vietnamese food -- sweet and savory, spicy and tart.
Do they have the full zest of banh mi at the Eden Center in Arlington? No. The bread isn't a baguette. It's wider like a good roll, but still with a nice crust. And the flavors could be dialed up. More sweet, more savory, more spicy, more tart. The meats were pretty basic, and that mix of assertive flavors is what makes something really taste Vietnamese. Next time, I'll ask for extra pickled vegetables to try for extra "banh mi" punch.
Bottom line: Definitely worth a drive to Rte 40 to enjoy lunch. But still worth driving if you can find a great banh mi. And still an opening in Howard County if anyone wants to dial up banh mi. Bon Fresco? Come on. It seems perfect.
Cafe Au Lait
3290 N Ridge Rd #105
Ellicott City, MD 21043
NEAR: Cafe Au Lait is on Ridge Road just north of Rte 40 and just east of Rte 29. If you're on Rte 40, you just turn north on Ridge Road and look in the second building on the right. If you're on northbound Rte 29, you take the left fork of the Rte 40 exit ramp as if you're going into the Lotte shopping center and then drive until the ramp ends in a "T" at Ridge Road. Turn left, then cross over Rte 40. Cafe Au Lait is in an office building on the left.