Have you ever wanted to enjoy a decadent pain au chocolat with your matcha-flavored milk tea? Me neither, but it’s one hell of a combo that can only be found at Benji’s Bakery & Cafe.
Opened in June 2019 on Dimond Boulevard, Benji’s is a bakery and café that specializes in house-made pastries, milk teas with boba and bánh mì, or Vietnamese sandwiches.
Among other offerings are classic French pastries like croissants, which come in several different flavors, including taro, and creative concoctions like Benji’s very own cruffin: a delicious croissant-muffin hybrid that comes creme-filled and with several various flavor add-ons like taro and maple bacon.
Benji’s cruffins combine the best of both worlds: flaky, buttery layers of croissant dough fashioned into a muffin shape with a substantially large muffin top — the best part of the muffin, obviously.
“We’re definitely known for our cruffins — not any specific flavor, but those are our main sellers as far as pastries go,” Benji’s employee Lex Pasana said.
Benji’s is also well known for its bánh mì sandwiches. Typically, Vietnamese bánh mì are served on a nice, crusty French baguette with the standard accompaniments of julienned pickled veggies, Vietnamese sausage, cilantro and often pâté or head cheese.
In what looks like a trend here, Benji’s kicks it up a notch by offering various house-crafted bánh mì recipes alongside your standard-issue bánh mì.
Among Benji’s bánh mì smorgasbord are favorites like The Islander, which features spam and seaweed, and the self-explanatory Roasted Chicken.
All of the above are flavor adventures that overload the senses with textures and flavors that starkly contrast each other, but still play nicely together. There’s something to be said about their rich, marinated, house-made pork belly on a fresh, warm baguette while sharp flavors from pickled carrot and daikon offer a crunchy contrast whose freshness slices right through the flavor profile: absolutely scrumptious.
“The best part of [our] bánh mì definitely has to be the vegetables it contains. From the cucumber to the jalapeno to the cilantro, and to the pickled carrots and daikon. It adds that freshness to the sandwich when you take a bite,” Pasana said.
We owe the bánh mì’s creation to the French colonization of Vietnam in the 1880s. Sure, this brought a bevy of political and economic changes for both countries, but one thing to come out of this was the marriage of two cuisines quintessentially Eastern and Western.
Despite the French evacuation of Vietnam in 1954 following the Geneva Accords, the French influence on Vietnamese cuisine was there to stay — baguettes in Bánh mì, Vietnamese crepes called bánh xèo, beef broth in pho, among many other examples.
When it comes to their bánh mì and pastries, Benji’s pulls out all the stops.
“[Our pastries and baguettes] have to be nicely proofed, especially [for] the bánh mìs. It’s very important to have a nice size to them before baking. Another important part of [making the baguettes] is scoring… you have to be very gentle,” Pasana said.
“We have bakers at night that roll out and make the dough, which takes hours. It takes all the pastries and bánh mìs between three to four hours to rise and proof, sometimes even more. Overall, it takes a lot of time, care and love when making everything we serve,” Pasana said.
Benji’s maintains a very affordable price point for their bánh mìs as well. At only $9 per sandwich, you’d be hard-pressed to find similar quality and taste for the same price. The milk/bubble teas come in at $5.75 with a wide range of flavors to choose from and all come sealed on top with a plastic lid that you stab with your straw — a bubble tea tradition.
The cruffins also come in at $5.75, and factoring in the cruffins’ taste, size and fact that you can’t get it anywhere else, the price tag is well worth it.
Benji’s Bakery & Cafe is located at 901 E. Diamond Blvd. Ste. C. Hours and product availability may vary at this time, so check out the restaurant’s Facebook page for updated information.