Restaurateur Chad Rosenthal opens a new incarnation of his Banh Street shop on Friday, Jan. 6 in a strip mall in Spring House, Montgomery County (832 N. Bethlehem Pike, 267-419-8587).
Banh mi - the Vietnamese hoagie - is the specialty of his first Banh Street, a walk-up shack on Easton Road in Abington Township. The new Banh Street location, just outside Ambler, offers seven kinds of sandwiches (gluten-free is available), as well as three kinds of twice-fried chicken.
Although Rosenthal might be a bit late to the fried chicken game, it wasn't for lack of effort.
Rosenthal, 41, who is self-taught, enjoyed tinkering with barbecue growing up. When he got the brisket, ribs, and sides to where he was happy, he opened a barbecue joint called Rosey's in Jenkintown. And then he opened another, in Ambler, near his childhood home.
Then he traded the small places for the splashier, roadhouse-style eatery The Lucky Well in downtown Ambler, which opened in September 2013. He also competed in Season 9 of Next Food Network Star, joining his brother Reid Rosenthal (Bachelorette) in the reality-TV realm. (Update: Reid got engaged over the holidays to a fellow Realtor, Brooke Hartka.)
Chad Rosenthal then turned to Vietnamese food, and his fascination grew as he came to appreciate the differences and similarities between smoking and charring proteins on super-hot grills.
After he'd put his meats in the smoker at the Lucky Well, Rosenthal used his downtime to experiment with making banh mi, which are built on French-style loaves that are usually slathered in pate and mayo and stuffed with a protein, plus pickled daikon, carrots, cucumber, cilantro, and jalapeno.
He opened Banh Street in late 2015 behind the Roslyn train station.
Banh Street's pun-named sandwiches include the Craig LaBanh, after the Inquirer critic; its protein is grilled pork meatball. The Al Bánhdy is a spicy marinated ribeye. The Bánhie & Clyde includes charbroiled lemongrass and ginger-marinated shrimp.
No, they're not $5 banh mi sandwiches from QT in Chinatown, which are sublime in their crispy, almost dainty rolls. Banh Street's banh mi are dressed up, built on sturdy rolls from Artisan Boulanger Patissier in South Philadelphia. (Menu is here.)
Only Spring House carries the crunchy chicken, in wings and strips, because it has the space (though there's nowhere to sit and eat, alas). One of Rosenthal's sauces is soy sauce, sesame seeds, and chopped basil; another is a vinegar-based hot sauce that is not for wimps ("not kidding around here," he said); and a third is unlike anything out there. He calls it "funk" - it's an umami bomb of fish sauce, tamed with mirin and sugar; after the sauce goes on, the chicken is topped with fried garlic, chopped cilantro, and mint.