Bubble tea, banh mi, and pho—what more do you need to know? How about the background to one of Fort Wayne's most delicious Vietnamese restaurants.
Banh Mi Barista (BMB) opened in October 2012, as a family business run by owner Will Le, his sister, and niece. The idea was that they could create a healthier option for the city, as there aren't that many Vietnamese restaurants in the area. (There are four Vietnamese restaurants listed on Google, with BMB earning 4.6 stars, and four on Yelp, with BMB at 4.5 stars. BMB ties with Saigon Restaurant on Zomato with 4.2 stars.)
Did you know that there is no processed food at BMB? Everything is made from scratch; handmade with love. A hands on owner, Will does almost everything himself although he delegates when necessary. "I want to do the best that I can, whatever I do. I think that when people eat the food, something I made, I should put some love into doing it instead of just a quick thing," Will told us.
Having worked in the restaurant business growing up, Will always wanted to run his own place one day. Although his sister and niece helped him at the beginning, it's just Will at the helm now that the business is off and running. "I always grew up cooking, I liked cooking when I was younger, always trying something new. My first job in the restaurant industry was as a cook at the Gas House. I cooked there for three years, and really grew to love the process."
"I have been going here for years for the Pho. I've never had a bad experience. Pho is extremely good, veggies are always fresh, service excellent. A true Fort Wayne restaurant gem!" — 5 Stars by Ryan (Zomato)
@banhmibarista has one of the best pho! If you like savory (not sweet) broth, fresh ingredients, and something that will make your taste buds dance, try Banh Mi Barista, if you haven't already! Sometimes I want to move back to Fort Wayne because we have a lot of small places that make big differences. #pho #cravings #vietnamesefood #vietnamese #fortwayne #foodporn #local #food #foodie #foodporn
Before opening BMB, Will managed a Fort Wayne Panda Express and travelled. Originally from Vietnam, Will came here with his family in 1991. Why Fort Wayne? "It's a peaceful town to grow up in, that's what my family looked at. My mom said it's a good environment to grow up in, and that's why we're here."
His mother is also the person who's influenced him most in life. She was a very optimistic and open minded individual, and liked to learn new things. She was a role model to look up to, always telling him no matter how hard things get, don't give up!
Over the years, Will's biggest teacher have been his mistakes. When BMB first opened, things weren't always done effectively or efficiently—things took longer and were more labor intensive. As the store has grown however, things have gotten easier, and a system is in place to make sure everything runs as efficiently as possible.
One of the most memorable days at BMB? "When we first opened up—we weren't quite ready—and didn't know what to expect. There were people lining up, and we ran out of everything we'd prepared the day before. Everyone was running around trying to keep up with the customers. It was a fun day and it's hard to forget because we ran out of everything, although we gave out coupons to the people so they'd come back when we restocked."
"First time going a couple days ago; it was FANTASTIC. I went there initially looking for good bubble tea, which IS really good btw, and I was very happy with my find. They have so many options and milk tea combinations to choose from; I went with the avocado milk tea with lychee popping boba. Really nice combo. The service was super friendly and helpful, and the beef pho was delicious. Now I'm no expert with beef pho, but this tasted pretty darn good. Fresh herbs, good broth, tender beef, awesome. Definitely coming back for both that and the bubble tea." — 5 Stars by Emma Hayden (Google)
What about the name? "Banh mi is the Vietnamese sandwich, and barista is all the drinks we make. Boba tea was just getting popular, it was new in town, so I thought it was a good thing to call it. Especially since it'd be the first of its kind in the city."
After four years in business, what is Will's personal glimpse of wisdom into the industry? "I believe in adding value to people, for the money they spend. When I go out and eat, I make sure I get the value for the money I spend. If I can enhance the value that people experience when they eat here, it will make them remember that it's worth spending the money on."
Strongest asset: Love and passion for food and a love of cooking. Will truly appreciates making things for other people to try.
His personal favorite at BMB? "My personal favorite would be the beef pho, and the Viet special banh mi."
What's next for Banh Mi Barista? Another store, tentatively named PBMB—for Pho Banh Mi Barista. Close to down town the store is slated for a spring opening next year. "The plan is to just keep growing, I've always wanted to grow, maybe even into a chain." The new store will have a few more food options on the expanded menu.
Tips to growing your own restaurant business? "Focus on what you do within your four walls, and do it really well. Just do what you do, but do it better than everyone else."
Will's go to spot for food in Fort Wayne? Wu's Fine Chinese Cuisine.
In his free time, Will enjoys hiking, bicycling, and canoeing. He also finds inspiration from watching Iron Chef, and reading lots of cookbooks.
"Best Vietnamese I have found in Ft. Wayne or Indy for Bahn Mi and vermicelli bowls. Try the Korean BBQ banh mi with extra veggies and the noodle bowl with beef and add an egg roll (which has way more meat than usual). Daughter tried lychee bubble tea which was very sweet but much more lychee flavor than I expected." — 5 Stars by Craig E. (Yelp)
Earlier this year, DasFort Media made a new website for BMB, and it was a pleasure to work with one of our favorite spots. You can check it out here: Banh Mi Barista.
We not only build websites, we help populate them with unique photography. It has been our pleasure to help local businesses build their brands online. Although we specialize in SquareSpace sites, we are also adept with WordPress and Magento. Take a look at some of our other sites: http://www.dasfort.com/studio (scroll to the second half for client gallery).
"Vietnamese style grilling at its best (shrimp, lobster, greens, eggplants and okra). Our family always has some of the best potlucks! My taste buds were having a ball! 🍤 😋 If you need a catering service (Fort Wayne folks), consider @banhmibarista! Create a menu for your guests that is delicious, unique, and fits your appetite and budget!" 🍤 📸 by @eatwiththao #FortWayne #BanhMiBarista
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