A downtown food cart will bring Vietnamese classics to St. Johns in the form of a new restaurant. Banh Mi Up will specialize in dishes like coconut rice, pho ga, and, of course, the namesake baguette sandwich.
Linh Bien and Andy Tran opened their Banh Mi Up cart in October 2018, accruing positive reviews, but the two decided to get into real-deal restaurant service this year. Tran, an army vet, and Bien, a corporate sector alum, landed on the former Mama San Soul Shack space in St. Johns. “We thought it was a blessing when we found the space,” Bien says. “North Portland is the perfect place for us to start.”
The restaurant will provide the fundamentals found at many Vietnamese restaurants, including pork belly banh mi; still, the restaurant will offer some twists on the standards, like a vegetarian version of their banh mi with tofu and an edamame “pate.” While the two are excited to serve dishes they grew up with, they also want to get into territory outside Vietnam. “Me and Andy are both Vietnamese, but we love Asian food in general,” Bien says. “So we take inspiration from a lot of places.” That means the restaurant will serve wontons in chili oil and banh-mi-style bao alongside its 12-hour chicken pho. Behind the bar, the restaurant will stick to beer and wine, though the restaurant will sling a number of creative non-alcoholic cocktails — think: virgin lychee mojitos.
Overall, Bien wants Banh Mi Up to be a neighborhood haunt. “We want everyone to feel like family,” she says. “We want people to feel like they can come and hang out with us, tell us about their day.” Banh Mi Up will open November 8 at 8037 N Lombard Street.
• Banh Mi Up [Facebook]