5858 Columbus-Wooster Road
Columbus Square Shopping Center
Until recently Mi Li Cafe was our go-to for Vietnamese food. Although we have now tried most of the Vietnamese restaurants in town (that we know of…), Mi Li is still easily our number one place for banh mi sandwiches. A banh mi is a Vietnamese sub made with crusty french bread, sliced pork, house-made pate, mayo, cilantro, jalapenos, carrot and cucumber. It is a wonderfully refreshing mix of crunchy and chewy, spicy and cool, and is exceptionally satisfying. They are also very good value, too. We didn’t think that the bahn mi could get much better until we tried the new banh mi with grilled pork. It’s a winner.
While we usually head to Mi Li when we’re craving a banh mi sandwich, we have managed to sample, at one time or another, everything on the fairly limited menu. One of our other favorites is the new bun cha giothit nuong, rice vermicelli and salad topped with egg rolls and barbecue pork. The barbecue pork really is that good.
The banh cuon is a rice crepe with minced pork, pork patties, bean sprouts, cucumber, basil, fried onions and a fish vinaigrette. Good but not as superlative as the above dishes.
Mi Li also has an above average pho, the Vietnamese staple, with our preference going to their pho dac biet (noodle soup with beef, tripe and meatballs). The bo kho (beef stew) has a richly spiced broth that also hits the spot.
The cafe has an unusual atmosphere that is a cross between a cafe and a waiting room. The rack of glossy magazine made it a little like a trip to the hairdressers, and like many Asian restaurants the TV can be a little loud but you can flip through Cosmo while you sip the potent Vietnamese coffee. Or play pool!
Beyond the Vietnamese coffee, Mi Li’s beverage choices include frozen bubble tea and some more adventurous options including che ba mau which is three types of beans and coconut milk and sam bo luong, a drink made with seaweed and ginko nuts. Trying both of these drinks seems to have given us a certain respect with the proprietor – she repeatedly exclaims surprise at how brave we are. If you like coconut milk and red beans the che ba mau is definitely worth trying.