If you don’t know David Rasp, allow me to introduce you. Rasp is pretty well-known in this area as the owner of Heroes Sports Bars and Royal Street’s Royal Scam. He’s also a larger than life character in the sense that he towers above the average man. We’ve been friends for a couple of years now and share many culinary interests, as we both place a higher importance on eating than most.
I’m a liver man. Rasp prefers gizzards. Other than that, we agree straight down the line: catfish should be fried whole, hush puppies are to be made with white cornmeal rather than yellow, grilled oysters may be sent from the Devil to tempt us and penguin meat tastes a lot like chicken tenders. When he rattles on about something edible I pay attention, and I’d like to think it’s a two-way street.
Rasp knows I love Vietnamese food almost as much as he does. He’s been telling me of this place in Biloxi that knocked his socks off a time or two with nothing but bahn mi sandwiches. We’d discussed taking a trip over there to introduce me to the glory of these creations, and for a year and a half we never found the time. That is, until now.
Le Bakery is actually more of a bakery than it is a restaurant. When traveling on the Beach Highway in Biloxi, hang a north on Oak Street just west of Harrah’s Casino. It really is just a little beach business with a handful of tables, but upon entering you are inundated with the smells of a gazillion confections. And bread. Bread for days.
When I say bread, I’m talking about Vietnamese French bread. There is nothing I have found that comes close to Vietnamese French bread. There is a dichotomy to the label, as it is certainly firm but has a softness to it you’ll not get in the loaves you find in your average grocery store. As an operational bakery, these guys provide casinos with their sandwich vessels as they bake almost daily.
You will be blown away by the display cases of sweets. Miniature pies, cakes, turnovers and puff pastries were gorgeous in presentation and almost irresistible. Focus, Andy. Focus. We’re here for the sandwiches, not the sweets.
Let’s discuss Vietnamese style po’ boys. These particular ones come on eight inches of French bread dressed with garlic mayonnaise, julienned carrots and daikon marinated in vinaigrette, onions and cilantro. A little bit of soy sauce and a slice of raw jalapeno spice these up a bit. For purposes of tasting, Rasp and I decided to order four different sandwiches and cut them in half.
But before the sandwiches came we sat down to a bottle of juice for me and a Diet Dr. Pepper for old Dave. I said diet. We began the meal with a pair of Pate Chaud meat pies ($1.79 each), which was seasoned ground pork in puff pastry. I knew right away we’d come to the right place.
After we’d destroyed our first course, the sandwiches arrived. Our first was the coconut curry chicken ($4.25). This seems to be the crowd favorite, with a slightly spicy curry that is equally if not more sweet. Outrageously good, I thought it had to be downhill from there. It wasn’t.
Xa Xiu Xiu Mai ($4.25) is none other than roasted pork and seasoned meatball. To be so different from the curry, this was equally as good.
Thit Nuong ($4.25) may have been my favorite. This is grilled pork with lemongrass and garlic. It really opens your senses. Though all of these sandwiches have the same topping and bread, you can differentiate their individual character with ease.
The one that had us the most excited was the Thit Nuong Nem Nuong ($5.25). Despite the hefty price tag, this sandwich was the same as the Thit Nuong but also sported sliced Vietnamese sausage.
So we had four sandwiches, two meat pies, two bottles of water, a ruby red grapefruit juice and a Diet Dr. Pepper. The grand total was $28.38. I was amazed. That may be the best value on the coast.
With plenty of coins to spare, Rasp and I went back to the counter, each purchasing a box of sweets to take home. “These are for my mom,” he said holding the white cardboard container that must have weighed a couple of pounds. “These are for my kids,” said I, holding a slightly lighter box. I wonder which of us told the biggest story, but the highlights of my box were tiny pecan pies, German chocolate cake and some kind of creamy coffee-flavored cake that almost didn’t make it home.
Locals were in and out through our entire visit. The guy next to us was a regular from Hattiesburg who stops in when he passes through town. A woman convinced me to buy a coconut cream filled turnover topped with almonds and drizzled chocolate. The employees knew her by name. The place really has a hometown vibe to it.
Rasp spoke to the girl behind the counter, asking about their bread-making techniques. She informed us it truly is a secret kept by her mom. “She won’t tell me and my sister what it is, so I asked her what happens to the recipe when she dies. She told me there will be no more sandwiches.”
Please don’t let that happen.
Get there as fast as you can. This place is amazing.
280 Oak St.
Biloxi, Mississippi 39530
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