REVIEW: Lee’s Bakery, Vietnamese, Pho, Banh Mi, Buford Highway, Atlanta
I am about as far out of my element as I can possibly get talking about Vietnamese food, so understand that this review comes from a beginner’s perspective. However, I know what great food tastes like and I do have foodie friends that I trust their judgment. So when my buddy Angel tells me “dude, you have to try this”, I take that recommendation pretty seriously. I’m glad I did, because Lee’s Bakery is definitely great food and one of the best bargains in town.
Before we review any restaurant, we make every attempt to perform a little research prior to our arrival. Obviously we want to take a look at the menu online, check out the location, parking and other logistical matters. I also look to see what other people may have written about the restaurant, the menu items they liked, the comments they had. I look at professional food critics, food bloggers, and comments from review websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. During the course of my research, I came across a gem, a tip to “ask Mr. Lee to do his ring trick”. So, when I was taking the panoramic shot that you see above, Mr. Lee came around the corner and I asked him to perform the trick. Mr. Lee had no idea who I am and was kind enough to do this just because I asked.
Getting on with the review, I relied a lot on Angel to guide me through this. He told me “get the Banh Mi Pork sandwich” and I did. He told me to get the pho soup and I did. I did ask our server should I get the shrimp or the chicken? She said “chicken” and it was done.
When our food arrived, I was amazed. Yes, I said AMAZED. Okay, its just a soup and a sandwich but the freshness of the ingredients is something that will hit you in the face As soon as you look at the meal. The sandwich is authentic, french bread baked that day. Remember that Vietnam was under French control until 1954, so the french bread is really FRENCH and its wonderfully delicious. The Banh Mi starts will your choice of meat, then greens and other toppings are added on. The pork was spicy and flavorful making the sandwich such a joy to eat.
I hadn’t ever had Pho bepho(sp) (sorry, I couldn’t resist that) and I had thought it would be like Ramen noodles but its not. Instead the Pho noodles are almost translucent because unlike a traditional noodle like spaghetti, they are made from rice rather than wheat. For a beginner, Pho is a bloody mess to eat and certainly not a “first date” meal unless you want to impress your date with your ability to slurp noodles. You have two weapons to attack your Pho (another pun there), a large concave spoon and, of course chopsticks. Use the chopsticks with your dominant hand and the spoon in your non-dominant hand. I found it works better to place a bit of chicken on the spoon first and then pile noodles on top of it. It’s a fun meal to eat and the entire atmosphere is very clannish where you begin to think “when are we coming back” because you have such a blast and the restaurant has this really great vibe.
Mr. Lee’s Bakery is one of the coolest restaurants we’ve been to in a long time. Mr. Lee’s warmth and authenticity, shows in the food that’s served here and you have to love seeing someone who enjoys serving others so much. Mr. Lee’s Bakery is a cult pho-nomenon (Sorry, I really can’t stop myself) and deserves it’s rightful place on Atlanta’s MUST VISIT restaurant list. Guten appetit!