Sometimes it’s very hard to give up your favorite spots. And the now defunct Mekong Vietnamese was definitely one of my favorites given how close it was to my workplace. But like many restaurants during the pandemic, Mekong closed and its owners retired, turning over the business to a new set of owners. Within a couple of months, the restaurant transitioned to Bonjour Banh Mi & Tea and I was a bit sad that Mekong was no more. But I do believe in giving new things a try so a visit to Bonjour was in the books and so far, so good!
If you visit Bonjour Banh Mi, it sits quietly in the Alexander Village plaza, a busy little spot with a CVS, Food Lion, Randy’s Pizza and La Cocina Mexican restaurant. Parking in this plaza can get a bit tight at times but usually not too hard. Bonjour has new signage up and when you enter the restaurant, not much has changed. Bonjour has added a side counter area right at the entrance to handle their takeout business but most of the tables and seating look familiar. The space is pretty utilitarian with a polished concrete floor, black drop ceiling and some basket/wicker lamps around the space. A light and bright “Bonjour” neon sign sits in back as a reminder of the new restaurant name!
The menu at Bonjour is 80% similar to the old Mekong (information from the owner) and printed on some copier paper up front! A handful of appetizers, pho, com (rice), and bun (vermicelli noodles) with a variety of protein choices (chicken, grilled pork, beef, shrimp, tofu) along with some specials and their namesake banh mi. There’s also a small vegetarian section for those of you who don’t eat meat. Prices are in the $6 to $16 range so it’s all pretty affordable, similar to Mekong!
Be aware that Bonjour Banh Mi is mostly set up for takeout service so if you dine inside and onsite, you’ll likely get your food in takeout containers, etc so presentation will be toned down. For starters when I eat Vietnamese, I usually get the summer rolls: cold noodles, veggies, and a protein wrapped up in a translucent, white rice paper and served up with nuoc nam (fish sauce) for dipping. Bonjour’s version does a summer roll with the classic roast pork, shrimp combo which is pretty solid. For mains, I’ve tried their combination bun (proteins with veggies over cold, rice noodles) which offers up a trio of savories: grilled pork, shrimp, egg roll. It’s a more unusual combo that Mekong offered before and Bonjour continues on although admittedly, the portion size seems smaller and less interesting served up in a clamshell container but still tasty.
Where Bonjour Banh Mi and Tea really shines is its sandwiches, no surprise. With ten variations of this sandwich favorite, you know they have to be good here at Bonjour. The bread is freshly baked in-house and is truly, top-notch. I’ve eaten many a banh mi and the bread here is ethereally light but offering a crisp and crunchy exterior. When the fillings are added, they are done so in a well-balanced way so all the elements complement each other: bread, protein, veggies (pickled daikon, carrot, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno), buh (butter), and pate (sometimes). The cold-cut banh mi is a classic taste of barbeque pork, pork roll, pickled veggies, and more. The simplicity of the fillings really allows the bread to shine! But the grilled pork banh mi is probably my favorite, offering up a stronger umami taste and contrast to the sandwich but I think you’ll be impressed with all the banh mi options at Bonjour.
Given that Bonjour is still transitioning from more of a pandemic-induced takeout business to a more traditional, sit-down, and takeout business, I’m hesitant to talk about service levels right now. The owner is from the west coast and a friendly guy so we will leave it at that as they figure things out. And while I can surely say the banh mi is top-notch here at Bonjour, part of me still really misses the old Mekong restaurant given its consistency in getting so many Vietnamese dishes right. So I’ll certainly be back to try more of the Bonjour Banh Mi and Tea menu but will accept the fact that my Mekong is no more.