Charming Owners bring vivid Vietnamese flavors to the Northland
If you’re used to the same old, same old when it comes to your sandwiches, you’re in for a delightful wake-up call. Bahn mi have arrived in the Northland with a vengeance and sandwich lovers should unite in celebration. If the phrase ‘Taste the rainbow’ wasn’t already copyrighted, then it would be quite apropos at the newest eatery on North Oak Trafficway, Bun Mee Phan.
The joint, and it’s tiny so the term ‘joint’ definitely applies, is the brain child of Jimmy Phan and Kaylee Nguyen. After opening in March, the shop, specializing in what they refer to as an ‘optional’ menu, has truly taken off. Their menu is set up based on proteins, of which they offer nine options, in six different ways, from bahn mi to bun to tacos. Add a killer chicken curry soup and I have a new favorite destination for the Vietnamese dishes that I’ve grown to love, all without a trip to Columbus Park. Hallelujah!
I started with the basics–bahn mi. Bahn mi is one of the most recognized Vietnamese sandwiches but it’s also a fusion dish in and of itself. The sandwich is built on the only vestiges that remain of the French occupation of Vietnam, crusty French baguette, in this case provided by the always delicious Le Monde Bakery in North Kansas City. For my first outing, I chose the grilled pork but the options include a cold cut combo that includes paté, steamed pork, Chinese BBQ pork, lemongrass chicken, lemongrass tofu, grilled beef, caramelized pork belly or fried tilapia.
Your protein of choice is then piled high with crunchy lightly pickled carrots, daikon radish, cilantro, fresh onion and sometimes surprisingly spicy jalapeno, with a smear of mayonnaise. The resulting sandwich is a handful. The combination of rich pork and fresh, crisp vegetables combines perfectly with the crispy baguette and tender bread inside. It’s truly a contained meal, portable and perfect. At priced ranging from $4.95 to $6.25, it’s incredibly affordable. You’ll feel bad about ever stopping for a footlong again. The bahn mi can also be served on bánh tiêu, a hollow Vietnamese pastry–the less sweet, more friendly to savory cousin to the donut.
While they don’t regularly offer pho, the Vietnamese staple that most people expect, they do offer chicken curry soup ($6.95). The soup rivals one of my other favorite chicken curry soups, the one at Le Monde Bakery. This one is truly a meal–huge chunks of chicken mingle with creamy potato halves and rough cut carrots in a creamy but not heavy coconut broth. Served with limes and a baguette, this would be the perfect cold weather day soup.
Going back for something of the non-sandwich variety, I tried the lemongrass chicken on bun or rice noodles. This was served very traditionally, with the fresh accouterments on the side of lettuce, carrots, daikon radish, onion and cilantro with more of the atomic jalapeno. (Pro tip: If you really don’t like spice, just ask them to forgo it from the start.) The chicken was delicately spiced and very tender. Doused with the small ramekin of nuoc cham, the dish has just a hint of sweetness. The overall dish is a great balance of fresh flavors with the veggies and chicken standing out.
They also offer their proteins on rice, in a spring roll or on three tacos. I tried the spring rolls themselves and was blown away by how fresh they were. First, they were the size of a small burrito. Second, they were filled with the great fresh and pickled veggies that grace all of the other dishes, making for bite after flavorful bite. Here’s a spring roll that you won’t want to douse in peanut sauce.
Phan says that they will be introducing specials periodically on weekends (to be announced on Facebook) but honestly, there’s so many different variations on their regular menu that you’ll have plenty to play with for quite a while. They also offer bubble teas in a variety of flavors as well as iced Vietnamese coffee. Most importantly, Phan, Nguyen and their entire staff offer a broad smile and hello to every person that walks through the door. Bun Mee Phan is sure to become a staple of my Northland dining habit.
Bun Mee Phan
4244 N Oak Trfy,
Kansas City, Missouri 64116
Hours Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Find them on Facebook at Facebook.com/bun.mee.phan.