Ba Le

Restaurants, Vietnamese Loop
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Ba Le
Photograph: Jeff Catt
Ba Le

This banh mi shop is quickly becoming the Pret A Manger of Vietnamese restaurants, and there is perhaps no demographic more grateful for its expansion than the Loop lunch crowd. Forget the egg rolls (greasy), the huge salads (more sensible than sensational), and the cups of pho (the broth is practically anemic)—just stick with the banh mi. These might be the best sandwiches $6 can buy downtown, with nearly 20 protein options (we like the barbecue pork) topped with crunchy pickled daikon, carrots and sliced jalapeño on a perfectly toasted baguette. For an afternoon pick-me-up, try the fresh mango smoothie with boba or a creamy Vietnamese iced coffee.


Venue name: Ba Le
Address: 166 W Washington St
Cross street: between LaSalle and Wells Sts
Opening hours: Lunch
Transport: Subway stop: Washington Subway lines: Brown, Orange, Pink, Purple (rush hrs) to Washington
Price: Average sandwich: $6
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In a section of town that is littered with Jimmy John's and Subways, it's nice to find a sandwich that isn't layered with the same old cold cuts you've been eating for years. The downtown outpost of Ba Le is a little pricier than its counterpart in Uptown, but it serves up the same delicious banh mi sandwiches on crispy French bread. If you don't think you can stomach pâté (a pork-based spread that is frequently used on banh mi), you should opt for the Chinese pork or BBQ pork sandwiches.