It used to be that if you had a hankering for banh mi—baguette-based Franco-Vietnamese subs garnished with daikon, carrot, jalapeño, cilantro, and mayo—you had to head to Argyle Street, where you could find tasty and thrillingly cheap versions in various holes-in-the-wall as well as at the venerable Ba Le Sandwich Shop. When rival purveyor Nhu Lan Bakery opened in Lincoln Square back in 2007, Mike Sula feared a bit for its future, praising it as a worthy challenger, yet questioning its prospects in a location so far removed from the hub in Uptown.

I guess there was nothing to worry about. In recent months a number of banh mi shops have popped up in still more neighborhoods around town, and more are on the way.

Ba Le itself may have started the trend, moving across the street into expanded and brightened new quarters in 2010. Since then it’s opened a Chinatown location and, most recently, a downtown spot catering to the Loop lunch crowd (and accordingly more pricey).