Au Petit Cafe – Vancouver, BC


Au Petit Cafe
4851 Main Street
Vancouver, BC V5V 3R9
(604) 873-3328

The Vietnamese subs (Banh Mi) of my youth were all fairly consistent – crunchy, mouth sawing bread, nuoc cham, mystery meat, cilantro, pickled carrots, onion, cucumber, and hot peppers. And they were cheap. Dirt cheap.

Phase 2 came about with the Americanization of the Banh Mi – Sate Beef and Chicken, Curry Chicken, things like this. The extra sauce made the bread a little soggy, but made it less painful to put down. I liked the new flavors, but the original sub was still  my favorite.

Then a trip to Vietnam redefined what a great Banh Mi could be. Great fresh bread, wonderfully flavoured house made meat, different sauces, pate, butter(!!), fresh veg. These deli sandwiches were so much better than what you could get on the street, which were, in turn, so much better than the Banh Mi of my youth.

Enter Au Petit Cafe – Vancouver’s best known Vietnamese Sub restaurant. Already extensively covered by other bloggers (like our friend’s at Chow Times, Vancouver Slop, and Sherman’s Food Adventures), I will try not to duplicate everything they’ve said. But as they’ve pointed out, the location is in a tiny space on Main.

They have some fairly sparse seating for inside – so most people get their Vietnamese subs to go. If there’s space, the owners always encourage you to stay. I suggest calling ahead – they are often sold out (they run out of bread).

They have a variety of Vietnamese dishes – Pho, Bun, etc… but I’d say 80% of people come here for the subs. Most people believe they are the best in the city. It’s hard for me to argue with that.

The bread is fresh but it’s a touch hard. It will saw at the mouth if you’re not careful. The most common order, sub #1, comes with house made ham, meat balls, and veg. The meat is actually a nice flavour – great porky taste that counter balances the heat of the peppers and the crunch of the bread. Veg are fresh. A complete bite covers the spectrum of flavours from spicy, to rich, to meaty, to fresh. Most subs are pretty affordable – especially for this day and age. $4.50 for the house special, $3.50 for the more regular orders.

These are not the best subs i’ve ever had. But they are very good subs. That are cheap. And tasty. And as we like to say around here, that’s all good.

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18 thoughts on “Au Petit Cafe – Vancouver, BC

  1. since my initial visit, i have gone several more times always opting for sub #2 – which is the most popular sub they have. i can only say that as when they wrote down my order (2×2 – meaning two number 2 subs), i saw on top of that line-item: 4×2, 3×3, 5×2…that’s a lot of number two subs getting eaten. easily my fave viet-sub in the city. i was also told that their spicy noodle soup with beef is absolutely delicious. guess who will have a sub AND a soup next time? (answer: me)

  2. While I like APC’s banh mi, I think I would go a bit further east along Kingsway to Tung Hing – where they make their own bread continuously – thus, it is always fresh. They bake bread for many banh mi places in town. Up until a couple of months ago their House Special (which is pretty much the same sub at APC) was a whopping $2.75. It is now $3.00. And unlike at APC, they never run out of buns (and therefore subs). I do tend to think that the buns at APC are often past their prime (thus the sometimes hard crust).

    • Great intel Gastro – the fresh would go a long way to improving the deficiencies in the APC sub. Thanks for this! (Though a post about Tung Hing would be great too!)

  3. On Banh Mi’s Americanization – that trend hasn’t hit Vancouver yet as far as I can see. Here, banh mi are cold-cut sandwiches with a few places serving hot meatballs (I also hear of a couple grocery stores that do banh mi sates – but those don’t really count as everything is microwaved or put into toaster ovens).

    I see Calgarians in particular talk about the hot banh mi sates at Thi Thi. We have nothing comparable to that place here in town. I don’t recall seeing many hot bahn mi in Toronto, and Montreal – but I never visit those cities with Vietnamese food in mind – so I didn’t pay attention. I know that they have modernized fusion bahn mi with certain hot offerings in NYC and LA, but I never did get to try them.

    Have you seen banh mi sate’s and other “modern” bahn mi in other Canadian cities? I’d love to see something like that here, actually.

    In Vietnam, the most common type I ate were “breakfast” bahn mi with a fried egg and sometimes pork cha lua.

    • Edmonton and Calgary for sure. I’ve seen it in other American cities as well – SJ, LA, NYC. Im honestly surprised it hasnt hit Van yet.

      In Vietnam, those street carts with banh mi (breakfast ones esp) were good, but it was the deli’s i found that served the best banh mi. They charged more, but invested a lot in great ingredients. They even had interesting fillings, including Ga!

      • It seems like a no-brainer – I don’t know why we don’t have such a place (NTIKO). I would even welcome a place like Lee’s Sandwiches (an American bahn mi chain).

  4. Yup, I agree, good Banh Mi, but not sure if it’s the best in town. I personally think all of the places have their strengths and minuses. I like the subs at Tung Hing, but I find the bread a bit hard. The ones at Ba Le lack a bit of filling comparatively, but their bread is nice and crusty. I wish I could combined them all into one. Oh, btw, thanks for the shout out!

    • I find the fillings at Ba Le to be of generally higher quality overall – and they have some good house-made Vietnamese charcuterie that you don’t see elsewhere. I find Tung Hing’s bread just has the right crispiness. I believe that Ba Le gets their bread from Paris Bakery on Commercial Dr.

      • Well all this bahn mi talk made me hungry so I went to the Kingsway location of Ba Le. I notice now that they renovated – it looks pretty nice and clean there now. I also notice a large baking operation to the right….so it seems that they now bake their own bread. Bought a grilled pork and a special. Nice lemongrassy notes on the grilled pork (which aren’t really “grilled” – probably baked).

        Very nice.

        • Hmm. Based on your previous review, you really liked the meat, and had a few issues with the bread. Would you say this is the best place in town now?

          • The bread was very nice. I would say that Ba Le does have an edge right now – they have much more variety of filling than Tung Hing (which is primarily a bakery). Tung Hing’s buns are longer by a couple of inches and a bit better.

            I’m glad this discussion came up. It’s good to recalibrate once in a while. I may post an update soon. I took pics.

            • Awesome. Looking forward to it!
              And i agree – recalibrating, either positively, or negatively, is always a good thing. Nothing in life stays the same for long.

            • went to BA LE a few nights ago. they told me that they have been working on baking their own bread, they haven’t done it yet.

              they do run out of bread! it was 5:30 (30 minutes before closing) and i got the last 3 sandwiches…albeit on whole-wheat bread (which really isn’t as tasty). not only that, but apparently the sold out of nearly everything that night…

              • Ah yes. I did note that the new deck oven on the right side is still very shiny and hardly used. They had (as usual) boxes of bread. I assumed that they baked it earlier in the day (I am not able confirm if the bread was their own).

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