Baguettes and Bánh Mì: NG Cafe’s Story of Revival and Resilience
Nguyet Quach describes well-made meals as not only comforting to the soul, but simultaneously nourishing it. Step inside NG Cafe and you’ll be greeted by Nguyet’s effervescent smile at the counter, numerous bright pictures of their signature dishes on TV screens shining behind her. Her influence is seen everywhere throughout the space, such as the pastries dotting the glass cabinets which capture your eye when you first walk in. The restaurant is owned by Nguyet and her husband Y, and the couple’s three sons and Nguyet’s sister Minh help out with the business’ operations.
The narrative of NG cafe and the Quach family is valuable in its own right. After having to shut down their doors in 2016, the Quach family was able to open their restaurant at the current location off of I-35, and they are back to doing what they love: serving delectable and authentic Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches. Originally known as NG BMT, which stands for bánh mì thit to demarcate a specific type of bánh mì, their business existed within another bakery called Lucky Bakery. The closure of Lucky Bakery resulted in the closure of NG BMT, and due to financial reasons and failure to reach an agreement with the prior owners, they were not able to operate in this location any longer.
Closing the restaurant caused them great heartache, but when they found the current location, they revamped the space and revitalized the restaurant. They bought the business that existed there prior, thus Thai food remained on their menu, but they primarily serve their native Vietnamese cuisine and hope to emphasize those dishes as they continue their business. They were not able to keep their business’ name due to this reason, and this caused their many steadfast customers to be unaware that the restaurant was open again in 2018, this time as NG Cafe.
Nguyet Quach bakes the baguettes for the sandwiches daily with precision and passion that is evident in each bite of the crispy, flaky bread. Arriving at the restaurant in the early hours of the morning, she diligently monitors the baking conditions and bakes batches before the store opens at 10 a.m. six days a week. She has perfected this process through hardwork and dedication, and what started as an interest in baking and 25 pounds of flour flourished into a dream that persists with intensity to this day. Her business ideology is steeped in serving food that is at once healthy and heartwarming. Nguyet carries patience and a strong willed yet gentle resolve throughout all facets of her life, and her calming presence envelops the restaurant.
Bánh mì is NG Cafe’s specialty, and every variation is captivating. Bánh mì is a dish originating in Vietnam after French Colonialism prompted the arrival of the baguette. The filling consists of typical Vietnamese sandwich ingredients. Starting off with their pork belly bánh mì, the bread is generously filled to the brim with the tender, luscious slices of simmered pork, and paired with the classic combination of pickled carrot slices and cilantro. A slight tangy sweetness is melded with the complexion of hoisin sauce and jalapenos add another layer to the intricate flavor profile. A light blanket of mayo serves as a base note in the melody of this dish. Nguyet’s freshly made baguette serves as the glimmering jewel, providing a scrumptious connection with the vegetable and pork mosaic inside. The peppery shrimp and ribeye bánh mìs are also must haves. The menu consists of classic Vietnamese recipes, but Quach occasionally adds her own spin on the sauces for the sandwiches to add a bit of personal flair.
After ordering, Quach offers you egg drop or hot and sour soup to take to your table. I tried the egg drop soup, which is studded with sweet corn with egg layered throughout like delicate swathes of fabric.
For dessert, the cream puffs are exquisite, as the airy cream is paired with the perfectly tart nature of passion fruit jam. Topped with a checkerboard cookie and featuring flaky shoe pastry, the cream puffs are an exquisite treat. The fresh baked lemon cookies are pockets of delightful sweetness; far from saccharine, the cookies fuse the tartness of lemon and the fluttering notes of powdered sugar. These cookies are nuanced and comforting, and provide a perfect after lunch sweet that can be paired with tea or coffee.
The experience at NG cafe extends beyond the delicious food, it’s further complimented by the warm atmosphere and the story of love that structures the foundation of this restaurant. Their food has a familiarity, a sense of joy that is sprinkled in with every sprig of cilantro and in every ounce of flour. It is reminiscent of home, fueling a form of nostalgia for times spent with family surrounded by good food, and the lovely aroma of fresh baked baguettes lingers with you far after you have left the space.
13000 N Interstate Hwy 35 Building 12, Suite 200, Austin, TX 78753
Hours of operation:
Wednesday – Monday
10 AM – 3 PM
4:30 PM – 8 PM