Nicky’s is just what I had expected from a BoCoCa (I said it) banh mi: lacking compared to its Chinatown counterparts, a touch pricey, yet acceptable in a pinch. There’s nothing appalling about them and the busy spot seems welcome on Atlantic Avenue.
Their stubby subs are smaller than usual and the classic is a buck more ($3.95) than at most of the Sunset Park storefronts. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s something wimpy about these sandwiches, maybe the bread is too airy, maybe it’s the fillings. They look okay on the surface but something’s missing (no, not love—I really hate the concept of passion transmitting from body to food like a sentimental lightening bolt). I only recently discovered the grilled pork version at my favorite shop, Ba Xuyen, so it’s hard not to compare it to Nicky’s pork chop rendition, but there’s something more flavorful, possibly sweeter about Ba Xuyen’s rendition. Crushed peanuts never hurt.
Pork chop cross-section
One sandwich is often just right, but after eating an entire Nicky’s hoagie, I felt unsatisfied and had to stop myself from tearing into the second one I’d bought for the next day. On the other hand, the spice level was higher than I’m accustomed to. I’m not sure if I got overactive jalapenos or if they just used more.
I’m not complaining because I’m happy to have banh mis encroaching South Brooklyn at all, though I wish Nicky’s wasn’t so close to Hanco’s and more selfishly, near the Carroll St. station. They do satisfy an urge and beat having to spend Metrocard fare, but I wouldn’t call either of these relative newcomers convenient. Anything over a mile is an effort, not a jaunt (Nicky’s is 1.3 miles from my apartment, which feels much further than the 1.1 miles I used to frequently walk from my former apartment to Ba Xuyen. I think it’s all the Cobble Hill strollers–baby carriages and pedestrian slow pokes–clogging up my single-minded path).
Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches * 311 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY
I'm still trying to figure out what kind of name Hanco is, or if it's anyone's name at all. It doesn't sound terribly Vietnamese, I'll say that much. Maybe I watch too much TV because the first thing that came to mind was Hanso, like the mysterious foundation on Lost.
At first I found it hard to believe a banh mi store would set up shop in Cobble Hill (or is this technically Boerum Hill–I find the border of those two neighborhoods even more nebulous than Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens). And with bubble tea? Is that right? Maybe they're trying to cash in on two perceived cross-cultural trends that New Yorkers have embraced. Part of me was just excited to have banh mi in the area (I hesitate to say neighborhood, Hanco's is one subway stop away or a twenty minute walk and not on my way to anything) but I also was wary because it didn't seem like a natural fit. Kind of like Nicky's in the East Village as opposed to the original An Dong in Sunset Park.
The sandwich was pretty close to what I'd expected, satisfying enough under the circumstances, but not kick ass in any way. The rolls weren't quite right and seemed a bit small (normally, one banh mi is plenty, but I ended up eating both that I'd bought to take home. Maybe I was just ravenous from banh mi withdrawals). The construction was heavy on the marinated shredded carrots, and contained more ground pork than I'm used to. I did like that the sandwiches weren't super mayonnaisey, but that's my own personal food aversion issue (I've grown to accept and even enjoy mayo, but I don't like seeing large pockets of the thick white sauce).
I was hoping they'd have a selection of snacks, more like Ba Xuyen, but even the salad and spring rolls listed on the print menu had been scratched out with Sharpie. It seems that they're still getting their bearings.
The space was a little austere and dead silent. A bit of music or background chatter couldn't have hurt. I was afraid to breathe or shuffle while waiting patiently for my sandwiches to be prepared. Even the three workers kept quiet the 15 minutes or so that I was in there. A mom with two small children was sitting at a table when I first arrived, so apparently Cobble Hill tots aren't averse to Vietnamese sandwiches. However, they tossed out barely touched bubble teas declaring them "too sweet." Also, very Cobble Hill that kids would take issue with sugar content. Jeez.
Hanco's * 85 Bergen St., Brooklyn, NY