Beyond Banh Mi

Exciting changes at the new Ba Le

For 21 years, Uptown's Ba Le has been a go-to spot for banh mi sandwiches and grab-and-go Vietnamese snacks. The humble café has always had its charms. But who knew it had such ambition too?

Big changes are afoot in their sleek new space (located a stone's throw from the old). There are more tables and twice the amount of refrigerated goods–packaged sandwich meats, coconut milk custards and more. But the most exciting development is–finally–hot food beyond banh mi.

Dishes that were once available only to go are now served cooked to order. Grilled pork or shrimp come atop bowls of rice noodles, bean sprouts, lettuce and herbs ($9). Banh cuon (small rice-flour crêpes) are wrapped around ground pork and served with the ubiquitous lime-fish sauce-sugar dipping sauce, nuoc mam. A mound of hot spring rolls stands at the ready, perfect for snacking on while waiting for your order.

All are delicious, but the star of the new menu is the roast chicken. Hours spent marinating in soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic and sugar give the meat–served two legs and two thighs to an order–bold flavor and a deep golden hue ($8). Order it with regular or sticky rice, sprinkle the plate with nuoc mam, and dig in.

Pair it with a light and icy smoothie, made with fresh fruit (mango, strawberry, avocado) and a touch of condensed milk and sugar ($3.50). And heed our advice: Grab a prepacked chicken leg with sticky rice to go. An hour or so later, you'll be glad you did.

Ba Le, 5016 N. Broadway St.; 773-561-4424 or balesandwich.com