When I spotted the Bon Baguette sign on Holcombe near Kirby, I got a momentary flash of hope that I could find a great loaf of French bread without driving the distance to French Riviera Bakery. When I approached the door, I was met by Tony, who informed me that his new bánh mì shop wasn't open yet.
I grilled him anyway. "Why a bánh mì shop here?" The location was odd, in a corner of a bad-parking-lot strip center that Houston's lack of zoning encourages. "Because there aren't any other bánh mì places around here," he replied.
That was a good enough reason, as I vaguely recalled a study done many years ago that found diners will travel a maximum of nine minutes to get lunch, whether they are driving or walking. People instinctively know when to stop traveling -- without using a clock -- simply feeling what will cut into limited lunchtime.
Indeed, I'm accustomed to pairing a trip to Les Givral's on Milam with a booze run at Very Large Spec's, but I won't make a special bánh mì foray. Superb sandwiches can be found in Far East Bellaire, but I only go there every few months to stock up on Asian groceries.
When I returned three weeks later, Bon Baguette was jammed. Better yet, many customers knew Tony already, indicating return visits, and four people already had several stamps on their Buy-10-Get-1-Free cards.
I had Vietnamese students when I was a teacher, who in turn taught me the proper way to pronounce bánh mì thịt nướng without spewing "Bang me titnun" and offending Catholic bystanders. Unfortunately I didn't know the English translation, so I took a stab at BBQ Grilled Pork on the menu. The meat and vegetables were as good as I demand, and though the pepper was too mild, the baguette was bon as promised.
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Most of the other customers were asking for the shredded chicken, so I ordered it my next visit. I settled into the dark-wood cave that Bon Baguette provides from the Houston sun, next to wi-fiers hanging out, many dressed in Med Center scrubs. Normally I avoid chicken sandwiches, due to drab white-meat dehydration, but the bánh mì was juicy and soy sauce flavorful, and I surmise it's the power-hitter in Bon Baguette's lineup.
Bon Baguette also has a large selection of sweet-named smoothies, such as Kiwizy, Wookie Cookie, Dew the Drew, and Mango Tango. And even though I always lose my 10-Get-1-Free cards, I'll keep going back.