In our continued search for the best banh mi in Pittsburgh, we recently eagerly checked out a new addition to the banh mi scene – Ineffable Ca Phe in Lawrenceville.
A Unique Vibe at This Coffee Shop
The space is part coffee shop and part Vietnamese cafe, with couches and the coffee bar being the first things you see when you walk in. But around the corner inside is a funky, industrial space for chowing down on the restaurant's banh mi sandwiches.
In the restaurant area, the bases of the dining tables are made of old sewing machines, and the space itself retains a garage style feel from its former days as a motorcycle garage.
The cafe uses coffee from local roaster Commonplace Coffee Co., and the menu includes espresso based drinks as well as fancier third wave brewing options like pourover, siphon, and Aeropress.
Being a Vietnamese spot, the cafe also offers ca phe sua da, or Vietnamese coffee, and a whole host of bubble tea options.
The ca phe sua da has an adorable little presentation in a traditional metal pot with a drip filter that's set on top of a tiny glass containing sweetened condensed milk. It's really fun to watch the black coffee drip down into the cream colored milk – just be aware that it takes a few minutes!
The dark roasted coffee blends well with the sweet, creamy milk to create a delicious little taste of Vietnam right here in Pittsburgh.
We also tried a bubble tea- green tea with raspberry flavoring and kiwi popping bubbles. The green tea is deliciously floral and the raspberry flavor adds just the right amount of sweetness.
The Banh Mi Shines as One of Pittsburgh's Best
The food menu is pretty small and simple. At breakfast, they serve items like breakfast sandwiches, avocado toast, and yogurt with granola and fresh fruit. Starting at 11am, the menu switches to banh mi with braised pork belly, grilled pork, grilled lemongrass chicken, or fried tofu.
We have been a couple times for banh mi and have tried the braised pork belly and the lemongrass chicken. I'm pretty sure we have tried most banh mi in the city, and we have to say, the sandwiches here are some of the best.
So what makes them so great?
The banh mi start with a baguette that is just crusty enough on the outside and spongy on the inside. The bread is slathered with a creamy, rich, yellow house made butter that helps bind everything together and keeps the bread from being dry.
Sweet and tangy pickled daikon, carrots, and cucumbers give some crunch and freshness. You can also add optional fresh jalapeno slices which we highly recommend.
As for the meats, we enjoyed the tender lemongrass chicken, but loved the pork belly even more. The pork belly is fatty but not too much so, and it has loads of savory umami flavors.
Sometimes banh mi can be either all bread and no filling, or dry as all get out, but the sandwiches here are neither. The amount of meat and toppings is generous, and the level of sauciness is just right for the bread.
We really love the atmosphere at Ineffable Ca Phe, and the banh mi are hard to beat for the price point ($7.95 for meat options; $6.95 for tofu) and their overall deliciousness. We will be back time and time again.
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