The Vietnamese banh mi has become a cornerstone of the modern diet, their cost friendly price point, return on investment for flavour, satiating hunger and the ability to be devoured on the move has kept workers, students, and general crusty bread enthusiasts on a continuous quest for the best. The ingredients may vary roll to roll but a banh mi should have a crisp crust, soft textured inside, some form of crispy or barbecued meat and be stacked with cucumber, carrot, coriander, and chilli if you’re living dangerously.
Want to know where to get the best banh mi Melbourne has to offer? Join us on this journey to uncover the crustiest, most authentic rolls around town.
Tia Con is the casual Viet diner from the minds behind some of Melbourne’s OG food trucks, Nuoc Mama’s and Round The Way. Their classic pork banh mi goes damn hard, and if you catch them on the right day, they're often slinging specials—if you're feeling like filling up, get on their 12-hour slow cooked brisket pho, too.
Master Roll Vietnam
This honest Vietnamese shop, serving up fresh street-style food has long been loved by locals for its authentic flavours as an after-work bite or enjoyed in the comfort of your own home with delivery. Churning out all the classics from Vietnamese rolls, vermicelli salads and pho, this traditional eatery is just a skip and a jump from South Yarra Station and is the #1 hotspot for all commuters.
Trang is a relative newcomer but their high-quality banh mi operation has specialises in efficiently churning out some of the best buns outside of getting your hands on an authentic banh mi in Vietnam. Now stretching across five different locations in Melbourne their popularity is not up for dispute. Their range of options only adds to their favour with lemongrass or bbq beef, pork, and chicken as well as plant-based options such as lemongrass tofu and faux bbq duck. If you’re not up for the carbohydrate intake there’s also the salad bowl option stacked with the usual suspects topped with a signature Vietnamese banh mi recipe dressing. These are hands down some of the best banh mi Melbourne has to choose from, drop in to a Trang that’s conveniently located to you, but beware of that lunchtime crowd.
Tucked away in the Vietnamese stronghold of Victoria Street this hidden little gem is easily missed, known to locals and those who’ve grappled with a banh mi roll or two, Phuoc Thanh Hot Bead brings that original Vietnamese bakery feel. Their claim to some of the best banh mi Melbourne has is worthy with crispy pork stacked rolls topped with hoisin giving them that lethal sweet and salty combination, set amongst layers of staple banh mi ingredients like freshly sliced cucumber and coriander this is one to tick off the list.
‘Grandma knows best’- Ba Noi translates to Grandma in Vietnamese, and it was cousins and owners Michael Nham and Viet Nguyen who found inspiration from their own Grandma whilst growing up. Setting out to recreate their favourite dishes passed down through three generations including one of Melbourne’s best banh mi. They’ve even got a happy hour every day from 4-6 pm where you can sip on all your favourite bevs for a fiver.
Pho Nom juggernaut gained momentum for a reason. And that reason is one of the most innovative banh mi anywhere in Melbourne: the crispy fried chicken with Sriracha mayo. It began as a special back in 2015, but within a few weeks, Pho Nom realised they’d accidentally created some sort of legally addictive superfood and added it to the permanent menu. We’re talking gnarly fried chicken bits with pickled carrot, cucumber, chilli, coriander, crispy fried onion bits, all lathered in zingy Sriracha sauce. It’s not a traditional banh mi roll, but after one bite you really aren’t going to care.
If you live near Smith St, you’re either Team N-Lee, Team Sunny’s or Team Trang. The three Vietnamese bakeries are very similar. All three do cheap bread, grilled meat and sandwiches and churn out some of Melbourne’s best banh mi on an industrial scale. Which one you favour is down to personal taste. For us, it's really too close to call. Sunny's bread has that classic crust, the grilled pork is always juicy, and they go heavy on the carrot, grilled onions and coriander. Service with a smile guaranteed, too. These bad boys used to be an insane $3.50 a pop, but thanks to our old mate Inflation they’ve climbed above a fiver. What a world we live in…
Saigon St Eats
BALACLAVA AND FITZROY
This gem is known for its knock-out pho (they use a secret family recipe that’s carried them to soup success in Paris, Amsterdam, Saigon, and now Melbourne). But the banh mi are nothing to sniff at either. Fresh-baked French baguettes with carrots, pickled daikon, onions and a Saigon Eats ‘special sauce’. The grilled chicken or pork are both good, and you should probably double-down with a plate of chicken & prawn spring rolls, served piping hot with lettuce cups, Vietnamese basil and dipping sauce. Vegos take heart: there’s a salt & pepper fried tofu banh mi to keep the food envy at bay.
Bun Bun Bakery
The OG of Melbourne Vietnamese cuisine. These guys were making banh mi before it was cool, and they’ll keep on making them even if a comet hits the earth and we descend into anarchy and cannibalism (probably). Bun Bun churn out over 700 banh mi a day, and there’s always a steady queue outside at lunchtime—hungry diners impatiently waiting to tuck into a BBQ pork with extra coriander (all for under $5 bucks). This place is the epitome of old-school Melbourne eats. It’s not flashy or trendy. It doesn’t try to be cool. It just knows how to make incredible Vietnamese food, and makes a lot of it. Who’s up for a Springvale road trip?
Also known as Chapel St’s best hangover cure, these banh mi are not your traditional sort. N Tran has opted for a softer rye roll over the Viet-French baguette, whose crustiness (delicious as it is) does sometimes chainsaw the roof of your mouth. The fillings are Western-orientated too: think beetroot, cheddar cheese, sundried tomatoes and roasted mushrooms. The purists will roll their eyes and dismiss N. Tran as a Prahran/South Yarra cop-out, but we’re here to tell you these rolls are bloody tasty. One more thing: always go the ‘pork sauce’. Pro-tip.
Nguyen’s Hot Bread
Two words: pork crackling. Four more words: in a banh mi. Yep, you read that right. Nguyen’s does a pork crackling banh mi that comes with fresh roast pork, a fluffy-white baguette, a good lug of soy, house-made mayo and all the usual banh mi suspects. The crackling and pork combo is ludicrously good, and the cucumber, carrot and coriander help cut through any greasy meat-guilt you may be feeling. They also smash out an all-day brekky menu if you want to mix your cuisine. Chasing a roast pork banh mi with a bacon and egg roll might just be the best idea we’ve ever had.
Hiding in plain sight on one of Footscray’s busiest strips, this place doesn’t look like much, but then that’s kind of the case with most of Melbourne’s best banh mi joints. They focus on food more than marketing, so it’s easy to dismiss them from the street. In the case of To’s, that would be a big mistake. Give the grilled chicken a miss and stick to the BBQ pork: it’s not too salty, and it comes with meaty pate, pickled veg and pork floss to boot. The rolls always come with a big smile (which isn’t always the case at other bakeries), and you can upgrade to ‘extra meat’ for $1.50. Highly recommended.
N. Lee Bakery
We couldn’t include Sunny’s and not N. Lee. This place is a Smith Street staple for a reason. The combo of perfectly baked baguette, warm homemade pate and margarine, topped with grilled pork and tonnes of veg is an absolute winner, and the lunchtime queues prove that N. Lee do it better than most. The prices are cheap (around $6 for a pork roll these days) and always topped with a dusting of crispy shallots makes this a must for a couple of the best banh mi Melbourne on rotation. Whether you go Sunny’s or N. Lee at the end of the day doesn’t matter—either way you’re going to walk away with a great lunch. Tuck in.
We’ve been sticking to central Melb a fair bit in this list, so here’s one for you outer burbians. Another hidden gem, Minh’s is unassuming, tucked away storefront. Having trouble finding it? The giant line and crowd of people might give it away. There are options for dining in here, and an extensive menu, but most customers are heading straight for the banh mi. Minh’s offers a bit of variety: meatball, grilled chicken, beef or the classic pork roll. Add in coleslaw with mango drizzle and shove it all together in a crispy tiger roll, and you’ve got one the best banh mi, worth the drive.
Nhu Lan Bakery
Last but definitely not least, we have Nhu Lan in Footscray. To's nearby neighbour. With one bakery on Victoria Street in Richmond (known as the street pho/ real pho) and the other just past Footscray station, Nhu Lan makes some of Melbourne’s best authentic banh mi. Offering nine classic varieties including mixed ham and shredded or BBQ pork, Nhu Lan’s brightly dressed employees efficiently fill their sponge-like, snow-white baguettes with coriander, shallots, pickled carrots, cucumber, and chilli. Always happy to modify a banh mi to your liking, vegetarians will be more than pleased with Nhu Lan’s flavour-heavy salad banh mi, giving all walks of dietary requirements a few tastes of the best banh mi Melbourne has kicking around.
Can't have banh mi without a big bowl of pho, right? Check out Melbourne's best.
Image credit: Federica Portentoso