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25 Catt. 2: In re BONMi

2013 November 13

Opinion of CHIEF JUSTICE JEREMY, in chambers.

The day before the government shutdown was bright and warm and sunny, which clashed with the frenzied chill of those midnight hours. But with the Cart’s funding in jeopardy, my clerk and I nevertheless stumbled down to Farragut Square to grant cartiorari to BONMi, a bright green mobile gastronomic enterprise which, at least on the day in question, offered (1) garlic soy sauce chicken ($8), (2) five spice chicken ($8), (3) pulled pork ($10), (4) chili garlic tofu ($8), (5) 18 hour beef ($10), and (6) seasonal veggie ($8), each served on “a toasted Vietnamese baguette” and topped with “Sriracha lime sauce” and cucumbers, pickled vegetables, and cilantro.



My clerk and I opted for the 18-hour beef, primarily because—whether in actuality or by purely psychosomatic means—food that takes a long time to produce tends to taste better. (Case in point: Michel Richard’s 72-hour short ribs served some time ago at the superb Garden Café in the West Building of the National Gallery.) Because a banh mi sandwich is clearly “street food,” it is subject to a presumption of affirmance absent some fatal flaw. In re Lemongrass, 7 Catt. 1 (2012) (citing In re Big Cheese, 6 Catt. 2 (2012)).

BONMi Menu

BONMi Menu

As BONMi’s website suggests, the 18-hour beef is brisket. The brisket is rather good. So good, in fact, it tasted almost like my grandmother’s pot roast, which is to say more Eastern European than Vietnamese and conjured up dissonant images of shtetls and pushcarts. Of course my ancestors can claim no strict monopoly on this particular preparation of brisket, so I’ll let that one go. As far as pot roast goes, BONMi makes a decent pot roast. I appreciate that the fat, rendered almost to jelly, was left in, which made for a particularly rich sandwich.

The bread, unfortunately, suffered from the same authenticity problem. Maybe it was the way it sopped up the juices running out from the pot roast, but the bread read to my palate as a hoagie roll. Which isn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.

18-Hour Beef Banh Mi

18-Hour Beef Banh Mi

The Washington Post recently ran an article on what millennials value in food. Having recently tried BONMi and made up my mind about it, one passage stood out to me:

According to research by the Center for Culinary Development, millennials also “value authenticity above almost all else. If a sandwich is billed as a Vietnamese banh mi, they expect it to look, feel and taste like an authentic banh mi.”

Nothing about BONMi’s 18-hour beef sandwich was bad. In fact, it was quite tasty. But I struggled to overcome its branding. To me, it just didn’t “look, feel and taste like an authentic banh mi.” Nor did it read as fusion. There was none of the bright freshness I associate with Vietnamese cuisine. The cilantro and Sriracha were, I suppose, drowned out by the deep savoriness of the brisket. Instead, BONMi served up a decent pot roast hoagie. And I suppose that’s something, but I guess I struggle with prototypical millennial tendencies nonetheless.

For these reasons, BONMi’s 18-hour beef banh mi is

AFFIRMED in part and REMANDED in part to BONMi for revision. It is so ordered.

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