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Bánh mì The Vietnamese hoagie is cheap and delicious, but only in Virginia.

Photograph by Darrow Montgomery

Once the hallmark of ethnic eats in the Virginia suburbs, bánh mì in 2011 has become the District’s overpriced and overly Americanized lunch du jour. One of the year’s most hugely hyped arrivals on the restaurant scene, ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, promised to do for the Vietnamese hoagie what parent chain Chipotle did for the burrito: offer an easily accessible take on an international classic at a quality level and price point a couple notches above fast-food schlock. Soon, a rival shop with a similar concept, BONMi, appeared on the scene. Unfortunately, unlike in the burrito business, there’s no lowbrow, Yankified version of bánh mì to favorably compare the new chains against. Which means we’re left comparing the in-town boutique versions against the ethnic-enclave variety—which is just as tasty and a lot cheaper.

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