.Mommy’s Bánh Mì: From Food Truck to Brick and Mortar

For many, sandwiches are more than just food—they’re a love language, a statement, a universal comfort, even a culture. And at Mommy’s Bánh Mì in downtown San Jose, they are a love letter to the taste buds.

Just a short walk from San Pedro Square, MBM is still in its soft-opening phase but has already garnered a local following. Although it’s been at this location for only a few months, its story began long before the doors opened.

The April arrival of Mommy’s Bánh Mì was the culmination of owner Curtis Lai’s years of passion for his mom’s food. The idea took root when Curtis humorously suggested his mother should start a bánh mì food truck. To his surprise, she bought a trailer shortly thereafter and urged him to join her. Despite his full-time tech job, Lai helped whenever possible—and eventually committed to the business full-time.

Starting with pop-ups, farmers markets, ghost kitchens and late-night nightclub service, Lai established his first standalone location on Market Street by 2023. He now bakes his own bánh mì bread daily, beginning the process early each morning. Lai, who takes pride in knowing his customers by name, has created a welcoming environment in a short time.

During my visit, I spoke with the staff and numerous patrons about their favorite menu items. Many customers worked nearby, while others had discovered the restaurant through social media or word of mouth. One guest mentioned that he frequently ordered through DoorDash but was visiting in person for the first time. Another patron shared that he had been a fan of Lai’s food since the pop-up days.

The menu is refreshingly straightforward, featuring traditional sandwiches, vermicelli noodles and rice bowls. After receiving enthusiastic recommendations from guests and staff alike, I knew I had to try one of each.

I started with an order of Twirly Fries, thick and topped with fried onions, scallions and the signature vegan fish sauce. For an extra kick, I recommend dipping them in the cilantro aioli.

For the sandwich, I chose the porchetta bánh mì. This standout features slow-roasted pork belly complemented by the satisfying crunch of fried onions. Refreshing cucumbers balance the rich flavors, while sweet pickled carrots and daikons add a vibrant kick. Fresh cilantro provides an herbal note, and the green sauce—their signature cilantro aioli—brings a zesty flair. The sandwich also packs a hit from jalapeños, all tucked into a baguette.

For the noodle bowl, I opted for the BBQ lemongrass chicken with vermicelli rice noodles. Striking a balance between lightness and satisfaction, the grilled, lemongrass-marinated chicken offers a savory, smoky taste. The fresh noodles provide a delicate base that pairs wonderfully with the crisp spring mix and crunchy onions. Pickled carrots and daikons add a tangy twist, while cilantro and jalapeños bring a fresh, spicy element. The dish is enhanced by a side of sweet and savory vegan Vietnamese “fish” sauce, with the signature green sauce adding a final zesty touch. Despite its hearty ingredients, the fresh greens and noodles keep the bowl feeling light and refreshing.

To complement the meal, I tried the Vietnamese coffee and jasmine passionfruit iced tea. The coffee was robust, with a deep, bold flavor. The tea was equally delightful, combining the floral notes of jasmine with the tropical sweetness of passionfruit. It was so refreshing that I couldn’t resist ordering a second glass.

While Lai admits that he is still learning as he goes and the business is finding its footing in this new space, he’s happy with the progress so far. The positive feedback from the community and the growing number of loyal customers are a testament to the hard work and passion behind Mommy’s Bánh Mì. As the restaurant continues to evolve, it should become a staple in downtown San Jose.

Mommy’s Bánh Mì, 86 N Market St, San Jose. Open Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm. mommysbanhmi.com

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