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Meredith Goad

Meredith Goad has harvested oysters on the Chesapeake Bay, eaten reindeer in Finland and sipped hot chai in the Himalayas. She writes the weekly Soup to Nuts column and enjoys a good cocktail.

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Posted: November 7, 2016

For a cheap banh mi, pay Le Variety a visit

Written by: Meredith Goad

 

A pork Bahn Mi sandwich from Le Variety in South Portland. Below: The interior and exterior of the Le Variety.

A pork Bahn Mi sandwich from Le Variety in South Portland. Below: The interior and exterior of the Le Variety.

Portland foodies wiped away a tear or two when Kim’s Sandwich & Cafe on St. John Street closed, and they no longer had access to banh mi for less than $4. Kim’s sandwiches were one of the best deals in town.

Le Variety is not quite the same, but it does help to fill the big gap left behind by Kim’s.

Le’s is mostly a garden-variety variety store, located in South Portland’s Redbank neighborhood, just off Interstate 295 on Westbrook Street. What sets Le Variety apart is its small, eclectic take-out menu that goes beyond the usual pizza slices and breakfast sandwiches.

For just $3.75, you can get a pork or chicken banh mi, or as it’s listed on the board, Vietnamese sandwich. The store also serves egg rolls, spring rolls, chow mein, fried rice and pad Thai.

We tried a pork banh mi, which came on a toasted roll and was filled with tender pieces of pork, thin slices of fresh cucumber, julienned pickled carrots and fresh cilantro. All the ingredients seemed very fresh, and you can choose the level of spiciness you prefer. They’ll also make it with marinated chicken and, according to their Facebook page, are working on vegetarian and barbecue beef versions. Still one of the best lunch deals in town.

We also tried the pad Thai, which was just fine for quick take-out, but not the best version we’ve had. The noodles were a little dry. But if you’re exhausted from shopping at the Maine Mall, which is just down the road, and want a quick lunch or dinner, this will do just fine. The pad Thai, chow mein and fried rice are all $7.95, or $8.95 if you include a 20-ounce drink. Egg rolls are 99 cents each, and an order of spring rolls costs $4.25.

Le’s also makes pizzas whole and by the slice and serves specials such as meatballs and pasta, sausage sandwiches and other casual meals commonly found at variety stores. Two slices of pizza and a 20-ounce drink cost just $3.49.

“Le’s Kitchen” is right behind the cash register area. Just order at the counter and walk around to see what else you might need while your order is being prepared. The day we stopped in, most people were coming in to buy cigarettes, but they are also well-stocked with all of the usual variety store inventory — sodas, chips, ice cream, beer and wine, Slim Jims, Slush Puppies, paper plates and so on. A banner outside advertises free coffee every Tuesday.

Give Le Variety a try the next time you’re in the market for some lottery tickets and a banh mi to satisfy that gnawing hunger.

LE VARIETY

WHERE: 586 Westbrook St., South Portland, (207) 536-7058, Facebook
HOURS: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
WAIT: 5 minutes
PARKING: Yes, in front of store
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes

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