Bánh mì in Louisville (part 16 of an onging series): Against the Grain

Last of the backlogged Louisville reviews! This is from Octoberish, I think.

[Photo of sandwich from Against the Grain]Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse on UrbanspoonAgainst the Grain (401 E. Main Street) is a microbrewery and restaurant close by Louisville Slugger Field. They do short runs of a staggeringly large variety of beers, rotating their six main taps each among one of a hoppy, smoky, dark, malty, session, and wildcard brew, with additional seasonals and outside beers making frequent appearances. They’re serious about their beercraft and also make damn fine barbecue sandwiches and platters.

But how does such a place end up in my bánh mì reviews? Well, in among the pulled-pork, sausage, and brisket sandwiches, there’s also something they assert is a “turkey banh mi”. And of course I had to eat it. It’s a $10 item, although that does come with slaw or chips.

Well, AtG is another roundeye joint, so I don’t expect authenticity. In the end, it’s pretty far afield from being a bánh mì at all, although in fairness I must confess it’s actually a pretty good sandwich. The biggest problem I saw with its Viet authenticity is the meat. Turkey’s not really a standard meat (chicken is and it’s not too far afield from that) but the bigger problem was the preparation method. Smoked meats are kind of the AtG food service’s raison d’être (not to be confused with the Dogfish Head fruit-infused beer of the same name), and their turkey, true to form, is aggressively smoky. That makes for a very nice meat and a very nice sandwich in its own right but is the entirely wrong dominant flavor for bánh mì. The smokiness completely overwhelmes the other elements: the slaw seemed a bit sparing, and I didn’t see any cilantro at all, so really there’s no mitigating elements reminiscent of the proper Viet form. Even the roll was off form: it’s a hearty bun from Breadworks, perfect for piling brisket high on, but whichever baker claimed it’s a baguette might have to have his toque blanche taken away.

So, yeah, I can’t in good conscience recommend the bánh mì at Against the Grain, unless you really hanker for smoked turkey. There are other sandwiches there which better showcase their talents, and places which do a more well-balanced bánh mì.

About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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