And Vietnamese is a big deal here. Houston is home to one of the nation's largest Vietnamese communities, and these immigrants have brought the delicious foods of their culture along with them. Vietnamese restaurants thrive in Houston, and range from tiny mom-and-pop pho shops to thriving local chains like Kim Son.
Imagine our surprise when we got a note from Houston's home-grown upscale burger empire, Beck's Prime, talking about the Banh Mi sandwich they were adding to their menu. We received a generous invitation to visit any of the Beck's locations and sample this interesting new offering (along with a couple of others).
Burgers and Banh Mi. If that's not 21st century Houston casual dining, I don't know what is. But we had to wonder how good a Beck's Prime banh mi would be. To determine that, we put together a crack tasting team and ventured over to the Woodands' own Beck's Prime location.
Befitting this multicultural offering was our multicultural team, consisting of your humble editor and real estate guru / celebrity foodie Huy Dang, the man behind the stunning @uberbites Instagram account. His knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine far exceeds mine, and he has a very keen palate. He's also a sharp dresser, adding a badly needed touch of class to our dining party.
On a blustery February at noon we converged on Beck's Prime on Grogan's Mill in the Woodlands, skillfully avoiding the road construction that rendered the parking lot all but inaccessible. Even with the construction Beck's was doing a strong lunch business. Woodlands residents know their burgers, and Beck's are among the best. But we weren't here for the burgers.
Beck's staff demonstrated their usual flawless hospitality, and we ordered and grabbed a table. In short order the food came out. Front and center was the new banh mi.
|Banh Mi at Beck's Prime|
No, this is not your Aunt Thuy's banh mi. The traditional french loaf is replaced with one of Beck's signature egg buns, the fatty mystery pork usually found has been replaced with lean, chargrilled, generously-sliced pork sirloin, and the vegetables were crispy, very fresh, and freshly cut.
Biting into the sandwich revealed the bright, sharp flavor profile that defines the best banh mi. But the textures were very different. The rich egg bun didn't have the traditional chewy mouthfeel of french bread. The pork flavor was more prominent than in a more pedestrian banh mi, and a gentle kick of sriracha brought a garlicky heat to the sharp tang of the onions, cilantro, and jalapeño.
The result is a very good sandwich, although it's far from a traditional banh mi. Huy confirmed that Beck's had altered the traditional components, but he approved of the result, and nary a scrap of banh mi was to be found on either of our plates at the conclusion of the meal.
The second offering we sampled was another new pork sandwich from Beck's: Hickory Prime Pork. A far more traditional sandwich, it included the excellent sliced pork sirloin, pickles, onions, and Beck's house made hickory BBQ sauce.
This riff on the classic BBQ pork sandwich was much more traditional. The hickory BBQ sauce accented the rich pork flavor, and the classic pickle/onion accoutrements made for a very familiar sandwich. Our only beef (no pun intended) with this sandwich was the mildness of the sauce - a smidgen more heat (or a lot more heat, if you prefer weapons-grade sauces as Huy does) would bring this good sandwich to the next level.
All in all we were impressed by these new offerings from Beck's Prime. Over the years Beck's has offered not only some of the city's best burgers, but also very good non-burger offerings for those who weren't in the mood for mesquite-grilled ground beef. These new items continue that winning formula, and we predict that they'll both be popular all across Houston.
Beck's Prime | Locations all around town