Austin restauranteur Larry McGuire has a reputation for repackaging cheap ethnic food for a trendy crowd. Elizabeth Street Cafe, serving Vietnamese classics like pho, noodles, and bánh mì alongside French pastries, is doing just that. The pitch perfect interior design for this "French Vietnamese Cuisine" has an updated French café feel with a touch of Southeast Asian influence. Stylish young women enjoy brunch while bearded dudes sit at the marble counter with large bowls of murky pho. One guy grimaced at the sunlight pouring in through the large windows and avoided elbowing the large glass jars filled with macarons on display next to him.
That warm pho aroma distracted me as I picked up my take-out sandwich. I unwrapped the brown paper around the Kaffir Lime Fried Chicken Bánh Mì ($7), and was surprised to see a large piece of narrow baguette instead of the typical torpedo-like roll. Baked in house, the bread was on the denser side and filled with nuggets of fried dark meat chicken. They were crispy and moist, but any special kaffir lime seasoning was lost on me. The sandwich was garnished with the requisite mayonnaise, cilantro, jalapeños, and pickled carrots and daikon. The spice level seemed a little watered down for the crowd, so I compensated with a large squirt of Sriracha.
The food at Larry McGuire's restaurants is almost always impeccably cooked, and Elizabeth Street Cafe is no different. You can't really go wrong with good fried chicken stuffed into fresh baked bread. But without the kaffir lime seasoning linking all the elements, this concept was disjointed. I'll be back to try that pho, however, and maybe a bánh mì without a fusion twist.