Upon opening the door under the bright yellow awning, customers are greeted with a kind hello from employees and overwhelmed with the scent of freshly baked bread. Customers order sandwiches and “other goodies” right away at the counter, enabling them to watch everything being prepared fresh behind the frosted glass.
The friendly staff chats with customers who are long time regulars, happily answering the dozens of questions that people have about the menu and interacting with Corvallis residents as if they were long time friends. Customers range from college students to families and seniors, all coming in to satisfy their lunch needs, which is a very busy time at Baguette. The noon hour on weekdays seems to be the busiest, but dinner can also be an extremely popular time, especially on Saturdays.
On my recent Wednesday afternoon visit, I ordered the most popular menu item, the original baguette, which features cold cut Vietnamese ham and slices of Asian barbecue pork. All of the sandwiches include shredded pickled carrots and daikons, cucumbers, cilantro, mayo sauce, soy sauce and mild garlic pepper sauce. This food is common everywhere in Vietnam as a favorite of factory workers and students, eaten for any meal of the day. Another customer favorite is the BBQ and breakfast baguettes, as well as the vegetarian sandwiches, featuring tofu and veggie loaf.
Throughout my several trips to Baguette, I have come to like the shrimp and ham salad rolls the best. The pairing of the two meats along with rice vermicelli, shredded carrots, lettuce, mint and cilantro seem to pair perfectly with the peanut dipping sauce served on the side. As I enjoy my meal, served in black plastic basket lined with parchment paper, with friends at one of the many square black tables throughout the small restaurant, I observe the artwork and décor that gives Baguette such an intriguing atmosphere.
The right wall of the restaurant is brick, while the other walls are painted a rich red or golden yellow color. There are live plants, bamboo in a vase and French inspired paintings on the walls. There is everything from a Vietnamese clock on the wall above the back room to a small statue of the Eiffel Tower to connect the two cultures in this one deliciously unique restaurant.
While customers are paying for their food, they are tempted at the cash register to add steamed pork buns, which are stuffed with steam cooked pork meatball and boiled egg or sweet bao (bread with sweet potato filling) to their order due to their interesting appearance and affordable price.
Behind the cash register is a refrigerator full of beverages with everything ranging from coke products to fruit juices and nectar. There are also other drinks for purchase, including Thai iced tea, Asian style iced coffee, café crème, hot tea and hot ginger. Over where people can wait at benches for to go orders, another popular feature at Baguette, there is a help yourself water dispenser.
The staff all wears casual clothing with a simple black apron over the top, standing in front of a giant canvas print of a French baguette. They are quick to apologize if customers have to wait in line or it seems like too long of a wait for their food because something had to be freshly replenished. The staff of two to four busily works behind the counter, artfully creating sandwiches as people continue to walk through the door and the soft radio music plays at a decently quiet level.
This new location of Baguette opened on February 14, 2011, where it has found a greater customer base due to its more prominent visibility and expanded seating area compared to the smaller, more to-go focused location that was downtown, yet closer to Western Boulevard. The affordability, freshness and originality are what set Baguette apart from other restaurants located downtown, making it one of my favorites and a definite four star eatery.
If you go to Baguette…
Location: 121 SW 3rd Street, Corvallis, OR 97333
Price: All menu items are $5-$10
Charge cards: Visa, Discover, American Express
Hours: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday – Saturday, Closed Sunday
Parking: Can usually find a spot to park on the street out front
Cuisine: Vietnamese sandwiches