Banh Meee, which started in July 2017 as a food truck serving Vietnamese pho, noodle dishes and banh mi, will open at 399 Capitol Ave. next month. Owner Dung “G” Tran says his plans for a storefront came sooner than he thought.
“Running a food truck in New England weather was harder than I had expected,” he says, pointing to problems with freezing water lines and other winter issues.
Tran, a California native who moved to Connecticut at age 14, said he was inspired to start the truck after tasting traditional Vietnamese cuisine made by his girlfriend’s mother and grandmother. Since its debut last summer, the truck has gained a following at stops like Market Square in Newington, Mortensen River Plaza in Hartford and various Connecticut breweries, including Hog River in Hartford and Brewery Legitimus in New Hartford.
When Banh Meee first hit the streets, Tran kept his menu limited to items like pho and Vietnamese egg rolls. As customers asked for more options, he expanded the offerings, adding specials like bun bo hue (spicy beef noodle soup) and bun rieu (Tran’s version features rice vermicelli in a tomato/pork broth with crab meatballs).
The Hartford restaurant will offer these specialties, alongside pho with chicken and brisket, banh mi baguette sandwiches with assorted meats, spicy cabbage coleslaw with chicken or tofu, and beverages like flavored bubble tea, sweet Vietnamese iced coffee and salted limeade. Soups and noodle dishes will be priced at $9 to $11; sandwiches at $7; egg rolls and coleslaw at $5 to $7 and drinks at $2 to $4.50, according to an online menu.
Tran had considered other brick-and-mortar locations for his first restaurant, he says, and originally thought he’d like to open in Newington, where he lives. After meeting with the landlord and other Capitol Avenue tenants at neighboring Story & Soil and Little River Restoratives, he decided to open Banh Meee in the space most recently occupied by GoldBurgers on Capitol.
The burger joint opened in mid-June, taking over the Bob Ramen concept started by Little River Restoratives’ Chris Parrott and Patrick Miceli in late 2016. Nearly six months later, it closed abruptly, citing several deciding factors.
Tran says the closing of GoldBurgers at the same location in Hartford made him “a little nervous,” especially being familiar with the brand’s strong reputation in Newington, but he still felt it was worth taking on the space.
“I just think without people willing to take a risk on an area, the area will never improve,” he says.
Banh Meee is working toward a soft opening in mid-February, followed by a grand opening by March. The restaurant will likely be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Tran says, with potential for later hours on Friday and Saturday if demand calls for it. Tran also hopes to keep the food truck on the road, depending on staffing.