Some of the best places to eat in Charleston, S.C. don’t have tables or chairs. Case in point: Street Hero, a food vendor that sells Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and tacos downtown every Saturday at the Farmers’ Market in Marion Square from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. Street Hero serves up sandwiches and tacos so good they will change your mind about what ‘street meat’ means.
I first tasted Street Hero’s fantastic fixings a few weekends ago with an out of town guest and I have been dreaming about their food ever since. I should have known that a line so long was a very good sign.
“I’m torn,” I said, “between the ginger lemongrass chicken banh mi and the traditional Vietnamese pork and pâté banh mi.”
“Well, I’d go with the ham and pâté,” said one of the owners. (Regrettably, I cannot remember his name.)
“Sold!” I said. My friend ordered the lemongrass chicken.
We stood to the side of Street Hero’s yellow tent. Plates of tacos and French baguettes brimming with Vietnamese fare flew into hungry hands rapidly. We watched as careful hands assembled each sandwich attentively and piled on refreshing pickled carrot-cucumber salad and fried shallots.
After a liberal squirt or two of sriracha, I bit into my monstrous baguette. My mouth waters, even now, out of both respect and jealousy for the memory of that first bite. Creamy-earthy pâté danced with the refreshing crunch of a pickled carrot-cucumber salad. The Vietnamese ham (not sweet like most American deli ham—much more subtle yet still distinctly porky protein) and the salty crispy fried shallots hit it all off. I can’t do the sandwich justice; you just have to taste it for yourself. It will be the best $8 you ever spend.
There’s something to be said for street food. Without the use of refrigerators your ingredients have to be fresh and they have to be the best; especially when you’re working in 85ºF heat! There are no fancy sauces or foams or complex preparations for street food to hide behind. If it’s good, you’ll know; there will be a line.
You can follow Street Hero on Twitter at @CharStreetHero