My favorite place to eat in Manhattan is a Cambodian sandwich shop that's poised to expand — here's what it's like to eat there

My favorite place to eat in Manhattan is a Cambodian sandwich shop that's poised to expand — here's what it's like to eat there

 

If this mouthwatering glimpse doesn't make you curious, nothing will. Hollis Johnson

Starting a business is tough — even more so in New York City. But Cambodian sandwich shop has managed to thrive and expand beyond.

The restaurant, started in 2009 by college friends Ratha Chaupoly and Ben Daitz, makes expertly crafted and outrageously delicious banh-mi sandwiches. It has consistently topped several "best of" lists, including Zagat's 2017 NYC Fast-Casual Survey.

And while this may not be the typical fast-casual joint — modifications are not allowed here — the chain has taken off with a loyal clientele. A new location that opened at the Prudential Center in Boston earlier this year could prove fertile testing grounds for further expansion.

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Num Pang, and the frequency of my lunches there would be embarrassing if it weren't so delicious. I decided to head over to one and show why this sandwich chain is drawing some major attention, and why it could become a force in fast-casual dining in cities nationwide.

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Despite the crowd, the line moved shockingly fast. It's a good thing I know the menu so well, or I would've been stumped when I got to the register. They offer a selection of regular sandwiches plus a bunch of seasonal specials, along with soups, salads, and both noodle and rice bowls.

Hollis Johnson

The wait was just as short, maybe five minutes. Depending on the rush and the order, it can take from four to eight minutes. I chose the peppercorn-catfish sandwich and the spicy grilled-pork rice bowl. And you have to grab their special hot sauce too.

Hollis Johnson

And of course I can never resist the drinks. I went with sweet-mango and blood-orange lemonade to balance out the tangy and the sweet. The sweet-mango juice is smooth and fruity, and it tastes like real mango — likely because it really is mango. The blood-orange lemonade is refreshingly sour and a tad sweet.

Hollis Johnson

First, the classic Num Pang sandwich. Apart from the meat or protein, the recipe is essentially the same with each sandwich. Each one is encased in a freshly baked semolina baguette with a perfectly crunchy shell and fluffy inside. There's a quinoa-bread option, too.

Hollis Johnson

I can't have any of the sandwiches without Num Pang's wicked hot sauce. It's vinegary and acidic, but not unpleasantly so. It has a light chili flavor with a sharp and cutting heat that's the perfect addition to every sandwich on the menu. It's delicious as is, but the hot sauce takes the sandwich to the next level.

Hollis Johnson

This is always my go-to favorite here. The catfish is always moist and flaky — perfectly cooked. The sweet soy sauce wonderfully compliments the strong, tangy heat of the hot sauce and chili mayo, all within the substantial baguette. The sandwich size is pretty big, but I always wish it were bigger if only to enjoy it longer.

Hollis Johnson

The grilled-pork rice bowl is steaming hot, and the second the top comes off, the hypnotic smell of the jasmine rice billows out. The roasted vegetables are outstanding, and everything is lightly drizzled in a chili yogurt and chive-lime vinaigrette.

Hollis Johnson

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