nyc food tour, part five: tofu clouds, sweet gooey balls, and family styles for reals


mei: in true family styles, we have a guest post from our stellar cuzzin and woman-about-town, lexi, with some non-italicized interjections from yours truly. along with rachel, one of my oldest friends from back in the meth-and-mary-j-day, lexi, bean and i hit up the banh mi at nicky’s vietnamese sandwiches, where we stuffed our faces to a serious extreme.  above, the juicy pork chop with fresh pickled carrots and other veggies, in the warm embrace of a perfectly crusty/soft ratioed baguette.

lexi: ‘i have delicious yammies’lexi-and-the-classic

mei: to be specific, a headless lexi is double fisting the classic vietnamese sandwich with a paté of roasted ground pork and vietnamese ham. YUM. below, delicious savory grilled chicken on a luxurious bed of rice vermicelli. i’ll be honest, i would sleep on rice noodles every night.  as long as i had a soft pillow of summer roll on which to lay my weary head.


lexi: almond bubble tea:  balls.  sweet gooey balls.


mei: irene bean ferociously displays the super amazing tofu sandwich below. the tofu is some sort of warm fried soft mouthful of  textural perfection, like biting into soft clouds of awesome. btw, i know lexi sounds like she’s on e right now, but the real prose is to come.


lexi: BÁNH MI MEEEEE.  cus’ in town = 1. feast 2. dance 3. feast 4.sleep, repeat.  banh mi.

Quynh and fam run Nicky’s on atlantic st.  The handcrafted pho noodles are her father’s expertise.  SO bannnginng.

mei’s friend-slash-neighbor-from-forever-and-ever Sam, is Quynh’s manpiece, so he saved us seats (thank you sam).  he rattled off recommendations and special favorites, giving Quynh’s wee dad a pound (so precious) behind the counter on his way out.  the name ‘Nicky’ is for Quynh’s nephew, and her brother runs the smaller offshoot store on 2nd btwn ave A and B.  this is the kind of family styles i aspire to!  (p.s.  i am still waiting for us li-shiang cousins to bring our dream of the bocce beer garden to fruition)  

behind the counter a little toaster oven sits, which spits out the warm heros of flakey-chewy-goodness, which are then stuffed around pickled sweet carrots and cucumbers and savory meats:  either traditional pork, chicken, sardines, or tofu.  this is a pocket of handcrafted love.  handsdown NOMMYtime.  other banh mi renditions that i’ve tried  (like Banh Mi Saigon, which is hidden in the back of jewelry shop in chinatown, or others closer to soho and LES) seem lacking in the attention to minute details that make this no subway hero:  a fine mince paired with the perfect ratio of warm fresh bread, summed up to make each bite textured and equitably proportioned to pack the punch in a brain-tastebud-explosion.


From left:  the toaster, Dad, and Quynh (taking phone orders, while ringing up bills, while serving patrons) – i don’t know how she does it.

mei: how HOT is quynh?? i have it on authority that this lady is a major crush object for the nicky’s patrons:) but sorry guys,  my brother-from-another-mother-aka-the-boy-almost-literally-next-door, sam, has won this lady’s heart. also, don’t worry lexi, the bocce beer garden serving deep fried items wrapped in dough is still in our future. with the collective force of our wills WE WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN.

mei-and-irene-are-hilarious1How can you not love my cousins?  They are so great aren’t they?  Who knows what they are laughing about here.

SO Stacked – remnants of summer rolls, vermicelli and chicken, sardine banh mi, chicken banh mi, pork banh mi, tofu banh mi, pho with chicken… (b)oooof.


mei: above, you can see that rach and lexi are mildly catatonic/about to barf their brains out. EAT MORE, DAMMIT!


mei: a final fam shot with the wonderful quynh of the cramazingly (crazy+ amazing) frawsome (freaking + awesome) nicky’s vietnamese sandwiches (thanks to olivia and chris for those verbal creations).

We love you QUYNH!  Thank YOUUUUUUU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A few guides to the bomb banh mi:  Another Bánh Mì in the Oven Is the humble Vietnamese hoagie poised to become New York’s No. 1 sandwich?

Diner’s Journal (mapping banh mi)

Building on Layers of Tradition

all of this, and mei is off tonight – london calling.  though i know it’s just an ocean away, whereas before it was only 3000 miles of the USA, i tell you THIS GIRL.  THISSSS GIRL.

just watch:  she is going to take over the universe with her food writing family styles, orange-jumpsuit-wearing nomm-i-ness that is unmistakeably MEI.  i wouldn’t have it any other way.

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One thought on “nyc food tour, part five: tofu clouds, sweet gooey balls, and family styles for reals

  1. olivia says:

    those banh mi look FUDICULOUS!

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