Residents of the neighborhood adjacent to the Long Beach Airport have been eagerly waiting for the Hangar at Long Beach Exchange (LBX) to open, as it would bring several new boutique eateries to this part of town. But even during the food hall’s official preview (which we covered a couple of weeks back), only two restaurants were operational. The Hangar has been teasing its official opening for several months now (the LBX website advertised the Hangar was “Joining Us in Fall 2018,” a banner that stayed up well into this year), and we’re all getting hungry.
One of the first eateries to open is Bite Mì, a quick-service Vietnamese sandwich and beverage spot, though it’s still in its soft-opening phase. Behind Bite Mì is a team of restaurant-industry vets: co-owners Anne and Dan Tran also own Popbar at the Anaheim Packing District; Ted Vu and Scott Nguyen are the founders/owners of tea-and-smoothie chain Tastea; and Phillip Lu is one of the owners of OC-based THH (Tan Hoang Huong) Sandwiches. That’s decades upon decades of restaurant chops, collectively.
The menu is currently limited to a selection of a few bánh mì sandwiches, smoothies, milk teas and coffee drinks (with customizable sweetness and ice levels), though such dishes as chicken wings and loaded fries, among others, will slowly debut one by one.
The beverage selection includes choices such as the Just Peachy, Bite Mì’s signature peach black tea with small fruit pieces. “We actually flew to the tea farm in Taiwan to meet the farmers and had our own special blend made specifically for us,” says Vu. Of the frosty blended beverages, the Kiss My Haas avocado drink resembled a vanilla milkshake more than anything else. There’s also Vietnamese iced coffee for those who want a week’s worth of caffeine in one go, as well as the House Special Coffee, a medium-strength brew with hints of hazelnut, cocoa and house-made salted cream.
The bánh mì options during my visit were baked chicken, grilled pork or the House Special DB. At the bottom of the menu, it reads, “All bánh mì are served with house-made mayonnaise, pickled daikon and carrots, jalapeños, cilantro [and] cucumbers.” And even those condiments come from expert hands. Husband-and-wife duo Tam Dong and Lan Luu (also of THH) built a storeroom in which they prepare the bread, meat, mayo and pickled vegetables from scratch. “Having a commissary allows us to focus on consistency and speed, which will be one of the hallmarks of Bite Mì,” says Vu.
That House Special DB sandwich, though . . . Layered between halves of an extra-crunchy baguette are soft circles of Vietnamese bologna, red bacon (a perfectly crispy alternative to the chewy red meat slices sometimes found in bánh mìs), thick slices of sweet hot-pink Vietnamese sausage, loads of pickled-veggie strips, the occasional fiery jalapeño disc, just a whisper of mayo, and a smear of rich and savory pâté.
The packaging also deserves recognition. Sandwiches are delivered in an Air Mail-inspired wrap secured with cute postage stamps featuring sandwiches or bacon nestled among decorative fauna, the name of each bánh mì typed neatly below. The drink lids are even adorable; mine read, “Wake Mì Up (before you go go).”
According to Vu, diners will be able to enjoy a fuller menu once Bite Mì has its grand opening, but the company is already looking toward expansion, with a Cypress location set to open this summer.
Bite Mì at the Hangar at Long Beach Exchange, 4150 McGowen St., Ste. 5, Long Beach, (562) 420-4884; www.bitemi.com.