When I travelled from the southern delta of the Mekong River to the ethereal heights of Sapa—literally from tip to top—of Vietnam two things came as a complete surprise: strong coffee and great bread. I'm happy to report that you can find both at Huy's in Norcross.
You might think of a steaming bowl of pho noodle soup or a herb-stuffed spring roll when you think of Vietnamese food, but you almost certainly won’t start salivating for a flaky baguette. Yet, the French colonial rule of Vietnam left a strong sandwich tradition behind.
And the Vietnamese—quick to swallow and improve on culinary traditions—have really made it their own.
At Huy’s Sandwiches off Live Oak Parkway in Norcross, you’ll find the classic bahn mi, or Vietnamese sandwich. Huy makes the bread in-house, and he definitely hit the mark on the most important element of perfect bahn mi. A rich golden crust crunches and flakes just so and the inside is soft and sponge-y.
The proteins can vary from grilled beef to chicken to pate—the classic bahn mi seems to be made with grilled pork, though. The signature Asian element of these sandwiches is the slightly pickled veggie salad that is stuffed inside, consisting of carrots, cucumbers and onions. The sandwich is also stuffed with a generous bunch of fresh cilantro and slices of raw chili.
Once you’ll polished off your bahn mi without sitting it down (people eat them on the street in Vietnam, so you’re absolutely allowed to be nosh without formality), you have to move on to a cup of super-sweet, super-strong Vietnamese coffee.
The thick, rich brew will have your hair standing on end, so be warned. What I like about Vietnamese coffee is that is manages to be strong but retains a mellow sweetness. None of the bitter, over roasted stuff that you’ll find at, ahem, some popular coffee chains. It comes sweetened with condensed milk, something I resisted at first then craved.
The balance of strength, creaminess and sweetness has led my household to refer to Vietnamese coffee by a telling name: crack coffee. We mean that in a good way, trust me.
You’ll see the slight and energetic Mr. Huy carting freshly baked bread out front so you can pick up a loaf to take home—he’s quick with a hello, then back to the bakery to keep churning out the French baked goodness that is authentically Vietnamese.