Bánh mì in Louisville (part 15 of an onging series): Wiltshire Pantry

Still quite behind on the bánh mì reports, I’m afraid. I’d been noticing Wiltshire Pantry for a while, and Shannon and I finally dropped by, like, last autumn. This is how out of date I’ve gotten.

[Photo of sandwich from Wiltshire Pantry]Wiltshire Pantry Bakery and Cafe on UrbanspoonWiltshire Pantry (1310 E. Breckenridge Street) is a spinoff business from the upscale Wiltshire on Market, which is one of the several linchpins of the East Market neighborhood’s culinary flowering. The Wiltshire Pantry serves three needs that the original eatery doesn’t, and comprises a catering business, a bakery, and a café focusing on light meals. The second and third purposes particularly dovetail, as the café is generally showcasing sandwiches on a selection of chosen breads from their stock. As luck would have it, when we visited, the baguette was being highlighted with a $9.50 bánh mì, but the menu changes frequently enough that I wouldn’t walk in expecting to find a bánh mì here.

As mentioned previously, price is one of the things I’m a stickler for, having come into this game among the $3 sandwiches of San Diego. $9.50 seems a mildly crazy price to me, but we’ll soften the blow with geography (east of Preston we’re no longer in dive territory with dive prices), pedigree (Wiltshire on Market is proportionately more expensive, with quality to match, than downmarket competitors), and meal completeness (the quinoa salad and pickle spear, if culturally a mite dissonant, felt like they improved the value proposition).

Ignoring price, though, my conclusion is that Wiltshire does many things well, from a general sandwichcraft standpoint, but that the bánh mì as a whole felt like it lacked a certain depth of flavor. Let’s start with everything that worked: the bread, as befits a place which claims to be a bakery, was quite good. It wasn’t, of course, a Viet-style baguette with the rice flour snap, but asking them to do a one-off bread product when they’re trying to showcase their main line of products might be too much. Nonetheless, it was a nice robust baguette, with a light but crisp exterior and some softness inside. My main nitpick as regards bánh mì suitability would be shape: it’s a somewhat narrow loaf akin to a flûte when my ideal bánh mì loaf would be wider and closer to a bâtard. The pâté was unsurprisingly excellent and provided the primary flavor component; I felt it was a little too smooth but now we really are getting into pure nitpickery.

My main disappointment was in the lack of Viet-specific flavors. The daikon slaw and meat are places when the flavor really pops in a lot of these sandwiches, and they were somewhat muted in comparison to the pâté, so somehow the magic of the bánh mì never quite came thtrough, but I’d give this one props for being one of the more authentic offerings provided by a place whose cuisine is not actually Vietnamese.


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

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