Restaurant Review: Oh Mai Vietnamese Sandwiches
by Clifton Tolboe
At ThoughtLab we work a lot; sometimes we work so much that we actually end up eating all our meals during the day at the office (hey- we love our work, what can we say). This doesn’t always have to be such a bad thing; one of the good things about this is that we have the opportunity to try a wide variety of different food on the company dime even if the result is another late night in the lab. The problem is that because we are now 19 members’ strong (Thundercats go!) we are often searching for something that is inexpensive enough to make the boss man happy but that is beyond the lame fast food options open past 9 pm. We have created several odd solutions to our incessant cravings over the years – cooking in the back office, the legendary liquid dinner and even smuggling stinky cheese from design conferences abroad to stockpile in the office fridge (all you need is some good bread!). The other night however, we discovered one of the best solutions to our endless night appetites, on 3425 South State Street no less.
At 3425 South State Street you will find a small brown home that has been converted to a wonderful, quirky little Vietnamese deli and submarine shop called “Oh Mai”. Now for those in the know what “Oh Mai” does is one of the hotter food trends in the country these days. In cities like Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco and even Phoenix and Las Vegas there are dozens of specialty shops thriving selling exactly the same sort of menu available at Oh Mai. What these shops are specializing in and selling are ban mi sandwiches. Ban mi is Vietnamese for bread, which is a specialty in Vietnam introduced by the French during the colonial period, but more recently has become synonymous around the world for roughly 10” Vietnamese filling stuffed submarine sandwiches.
At Oh Mai you can sample a wide variety of different proteins in you ban mi, everything from curry chicken- made with a coconut based curry sauce and huge slices of chicken- to the heaver rib-eye steak which has a garlic butter topping and pepper onion vinaigrette. You can also sample some more unusual sandwiches at Oh Mai including: a sardine version that is served with spicy pickled fish and an awesome lemongrass bean curd sandwich that has caramelized onions and is sure to delight the any hungry vegetarians that you may be so unfortunate as to find yourselves dining with. My favorite ban mi at Oh Mai, and perhaps the best value on the menu at $4.18, is the honey glazed roasted pork sandwich- served with garlic butter, oiled scallions, cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon radish (served on all ban mi), black pepper, jalapeno and topped with a zippy chili lime fish sauce vinaigrette. Order one immediately and your happiness factor will increase exponentially.
At Oh Mai you will also find a small variety of “bun” noodle dishes that are basically the same proteins from the ban mi served over rice noodles with a side of fish sauce for dipping. Again this is a great value as these could easily feed two people and only cost $6.48. My favorite other item on the menu at Oh Mai though, which I am sure any of the team here at ThoughtLab can attest to, are the fresh spring rolls with pork and shrimp. These are little delicate fresh and pickled veggie rolls with one shrimp split in two and a nice piece of roasted pork all rolled into a paper thin rice paper wrapping and served with a simple spicy peanut sauce for dipping . They have these rolls ant almost every Vietnamese restaurant that I have ever visited but and at Oh Mai they are not only fresh and delicious- two are only $1.48! It is also worth mentioning that you can find true Vietnamese style Coffee Oh Mai- the really strong stuff! Something that I have been unable to find anywhere in Utah before.
Oh Mai is located at 3425 South and State Street in Salt Lake City. The restaurant is located in an old house so parking can be a bit difficult, its recommended that you just try to park on State street and walk. The restaurant is open Mon-Thu 10 am – 8 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am – 8:30 pm and is closed Sunday. There is also a new Holiday location at 6093 South Highland Drive that opens at 11 am instead of 10.