UPDATE (JULY 2021): I am very sad to write that Les Givral’s has permanently closed. But hopefully you’ll still find the brief on banh mi and pho below helpful.
It seems fitting that my first food post is Les Givral’s in Houston. Or, Les Giv’s, as we say.
This is my weekly staple. If I’m in town, you can probably find me here every Monday or Tuesday. It’s nustled in a Vietnamese strip mall in Midtown and is the perfect spot for cheap and fantastic banh mi, as well as pho and vermicelli.
“Most cities have sandwich shops. We have banh mi shops.”
This portion of Midtown used to be called Little Saigon. During the war, many of the Vietnamese immigrants who didn’t head to Galveston or Kemah to work on the water set down roots in Midtown, near Louisiana and Milam streets. Now, Houston is home to the country’s third-largest population of Vietnamese immigrants, with many Vietnamese restaurants focused in Bellaire area. However, remnants of Little Saigon still exist in shops like Les Giv’s and Mai’s.
What’s Banh Mi?
A traditional sandwich from Vietnam, often eaten for breakfast, with lots of cilantro, shredded carrots, cucumber, jalapeño and meat, all on a French baguette. They actually use rice flour to the make the baguettes, which is why they are seriously so much better than any baguette you’ll get in France. The traditional version called ‘special’ or ‘combo’ has cold cuts (sometimes headcheese) and pâté, but my favorite is BBQ pork (thit nuong). The sandwich is a representation of the cross-cultural fusion between Colonial France and Southeast Asia, as Vietnamese food itself is a fusion cuisine.
A big bowl of soup, also eaten for breakfast, and probably the most well-known Vietnamese dish. The dish differs between the north and the south. Believed to have originated in northern Vietnam, once pho moved south, embellishments were made, topping it off with mint, lime, bean sprouts, sriracha and fish sauce.
What to get?
Les Giv’s has all the classics – banh mi, pho and vermicelli. But I’d recommend the #1 banh mi, with BBQ pork and pâté, paired with a Yeo’s chrysanthemum tea.The paper on the register says $5 minimum for credit cards, but don’t worry, they’ll still run your card for $4.87, which is the exact price of this meal.
Tips? Make sure to show up before 7pm if you want banh mi. Closed on Sunday.