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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Vietnamese, Sandwiches
Casual restaurant

Wed–Mon 10:00am–8:00pm

Bar None
Credit cards Visa, MC
Reservations Not accepted

Far North Austin
8222 N. Lamar Blvd.
Austin, TX
(512) 834-6458
Tâm Deli and Café
Still serving the best banh mi sandwiches in town, with a side of mystery

Austin’s Vietnamese scene may have nothin’ on Houston, but bland, too-brightly lit strip-mall spots like this one make us feel like cultural millionaires. Numerous attempts to get the friendly, much-loved owner to reveal the source for her superior baguettes—only Baguette House farther up Lamar comes close to these—have gone unsuccessful. Enjoy the mystery as you bite into a flaky, crisp crust that yields soft innards smeared with a little lard, pâté, pickled vegetables, gently nipping jalapeño, and cilantro. You can also have sweet, plump shrimp; char-grilled pork; or chicken—but whatever you do, add that pâté.

People have a lot of love for Tâm, as evidenced by the accolades clipped from various publications and slid under your table’s glass. Huge seafood crêpes like paper-thin omelettes are pocked with the textural wonderland of scallops, shrimp, and squid. Shrimp-and-yam cakes are fried to a good crispiness, slightly sweet, and authentic. Pho is fine, but there are better versions up the road. Stick instead to strong vermicelli and rice plates, where nuoc man and charred-meat juices mix into starch and make the most satisfying cocktail of sweet, spicy, sour, herby, and umami. There are also several desserts, spanning both pre-colonial Vietnamese and French cuisines, like sweet, sticky rice puddings and French cream puffs with toothsome pastry and sweet, thick filling. If only they’d sell that baguette to go.

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