Sometimes it pays off to listen to one's wife. Call it women's intuition, or just luck, or whatever. It's the end result that matters, and I am very happy with this particular result.
My wife discovered this place, and even more importantly she made sure we went there. The credit goes to her, but come on, who could have expected such an outcome? I mean, a drab office building on a drab winter day on the outskirts of Ellicott City is not what one would call a great location, and, perhaps more importantly, not a place where one would expect a great lunch.
In the case of Cafe Au Lait, one would be very wrong. It is a tiny place, rather severely decorated with what looks like garden benches surrounding four or five tables, glass walls looking at a parking lot and a typical sandwich-place type menu so high above the counter that one could get dizzy trying to read it. But, as I said earlier, one would be wrong. There is no need to read the menu, since the very helpful young man behind the counter is very patient, very knowledgeable and very helpful.
In our case, he guided us to a treasure - perhaps, one of many - that Cafe Au Lait offers at a very reasonable price. We were have never before tried banh mi - and, after this encounter with the traditional Vietnamese sandwich, we are huge fans.
I don't know what Cafe Au Lait's secret is - the way they slice the meat (lemongrass chicken for me, grilled pork for my wife), or the airy baguette warmed up so that the crust goes all crackly, or pickled shredded carrots and daikon, or, perhaps, just the right amount of dressing. Whatever it is, the result is so good that by the time I remembered to take a picture, my sandwich was cone. Good thing my wife is a slow(er) eater - so the credit goes to her once more.
Simple, minimalistic, delicious. What else can one ask for? I know I'll be coming back for more. In my mind, there is only one question - with banh mi this good a, when do people in that office building get any work done?