Food Biz

This Sandwich Is Taking Over American Menus

July 25, 2017

Last month, food marketing research firm Datassential released the results of what it calls its “Sandwich Keynote Report.” It’s a study that the firm conducts every three years, polling 1,000 consumers and combing through restaurant menus across the country to determine purchasing behaviors.

There are some vaguely compelling nuggets in this latest report—51 percent of respondents swear by grilled cheeses. Forty-four percent of those polled “love” toast. Fifty-eight percent of adults pack sandwiches for lunch at least once per week. Fascinating.

The most compelling finding from the report, though, is the fact that the fastest-growing sandwich on menus over the past four years is the bánh mì, that melange of pickled produce and protein, from pâté to pork, sitting in a baguette. Bánh mì’s “menu penetration,” the frequency with which it appears on restaurant menus, has gone up a walloping 393 percent over the past four years. The terrain for sandwiches has changed rather drastically since the firm’s last report: For context, the sandwich that laid claim to this title in 2014 was the Cubano, that slab of pressed ham, roast pork, and cheese between two slices of bread.

“With bánh mì,” my friend Andrea Nguyen writes in the introduction to 2014’s The Bánh Mì Handbook, “you get to ingest Vietnam’s delectable history and culture.” Her book does a lovely job of not only functioning as a how-to, but charting this sandwich’s elliptical and complicated history, illustrating how Vietnam’s Chinese and French colonial history has etched itself upon this sandwich. She also documents how this sandwich made its stateside landing, shuttled over to the states largely by immigrants and refugees before it began permeating more eateries outside of those enclaves.

Shop the Story

I’m quite hesitant to call a sandwich some of us have been eating for years a “trend,” or to couch its welcome popularity in the language of discovery. It’d also be unwise to do so: Bánh mì is still, by Datassential’s count, only on about 2 percent of restaurant sandwich menus across the country. Either way, the news is certainly heartening; everyone should be eating bánh mì. For the uninitiated, I’d take a look at some of the killer bánh mì recipes we've got on the site.

What’ll 2020’s ascendant sandwich be? Well, I’ve got a soft spot for the kati roll, and I want the world to know about its glories. Here’s hoping.

Listen Now

On Black & Highly Flavored, co-hosts Derek Kirk and Tamara Celeste shine a light on the need-to-know movers and shakers of our food & beverage industry.

Listen Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sherry Clark
    Sherry Clark
  • Marsha Shapiro Roux
    Marsha Shapiro Roux
  • Lynnie
  • Emily Smith
    Emily Smith
  • Moshee
Mayukh Sen is a James Beard Award-winning food and culture writer in New York. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bon Appetit, and elsewhere. He won a 2018 James Beard Award in Journalism for his profile of Princess Pamela published on Food52.


Sherry C. July 28, 2017
I'm not going to make the bread so where can I buy
HalfPint July 28, 2017
@Sherry Clark, you are looking for 'sweet' (i.e. not sourdough) roll with a light crisp crust. For example, Mexican bolillo roll or Portuguese papo secos. Don't use bread with a thick crust. It will overwhelm the banh mi and be all about the bread, which it isn't.
HalfPint July 28, 2017
Oh, and you can usually get either of these in the supermarket.
Marsha S. July 27, 2017
Every other minute..or so it seems you come up with the latest and greatest! That's what you guys do for a living! but seriously, these new food trends or whatever they're called anymore.....come and go..just like life..ever so fleeting!!!!!
Lynnie July 27, 2017
Ohhhh.... I am already so all over this. Living between Oakland/San Jose we are in some banh mi heaven. But, I have Andrea's cookbook and it is so worth it. So now I whip out banh mi alot. And it is so good to learn how. Best sandwiches ever and very adaptable to a wide range of protein options ( I admit to even making them with turkey bacon, in a pinch and much other stuff; just get the bread and the condiments right and all is good). Andrea Nguyen gives good banh mi.
M.McAwesome July 28, 2017
Now I need the book too! :D
Emily S. July 27, 2017
I love bahn mi! And if there's more to know, I'm interested in trying those too... ;)
Moshee July 27, 2017
I'm American & I know more than just banh mi & pho! We spent spring break in Saigon woop woop! I'd be PSYCHED if more people in US knew about Vietnamese food - don't care what kind it is. Sandwiches obviously speak to Americans so . . . no complaints!
Nancy H. July 26, 2017
The only things Americans seem to know about Vietnamese cuisine are phở and bánh mì.
Lynnie July 27, 2017
Depends. I have the good fortune to live in an area with a large Viet population and we eat a wide range of other Viet food. The favorite eating establishment near my office is an insanely good vegan Vietnamese restaurant, and another that only sells Viet chicken dishes. You are correct in as much as many people do not have access to good choices for Viet food.
jenniebgood July 28, 2017
Agreed - Boston didn't really have a food scene when I was growing up and you would have been hard pressed to find a Vietnamese restaurant outside of Chinatown. When I moved to the DC area for grad school I lived in the "Little Saigon" neighborhood in Arlington, VA, where I discovered Vietnamese Food. I ate it almost daily (any readers remember the Queen Bee restaurant?). It's one of my favorite cuisines to this day.
BerryBaby July 26, 2017
Never had one, but hope to as we have many Vietnam restaurants/fast food choices.
Interesting about toast...I so remember my best friends mom making us opened, face sandwiches on toast back in the 1950's! It was such a treat and to this day that is my 'special' go to sandwich.
Diari July 25, 2017
Hmm. I'm sure those that live in places where there are large Vietnamese populations are rolling their eyes lol hopefully this wonderful sandwich never makes it on a list with "bodega ramen".