food truckin’ with gerald

Vietnamese treat hits Tucson Streets

2014-06-19T00:00:00Z Vietnamese treat hits Tucson StreetsBy Gerald M. Gay Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The last five months have been all about the bánh mì for Tucson resident Linh Nguyen.

In February, Nguyen launched his Vina Baguette food truck, which specializes in bánh mì sandwiches, a traditional treat in Vietnam that blends French colonial influence (most notably the baguette bread) with old-school Vietnamese ingredients (cilantro, daikon, carrots).

Linh said he chose bánh mì sandwiches because of their popularity in other parts of the United States and their under-representation in Tucson.

Only a handful of restaurants in town, Vietnamese or otherwise, offer them.

“They talk about these sandwiches everywhere but here,” he said. “In Oregon, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, it is all about bánh mì.”

Vina Baguette sells five different types of bánh mì sandwiches, including a traditional one with pork, a vegetarian version, one with shrimp and another with grilled chicken.

Nguyen said his most popular sandwich is the Bo Luc Lac or “shaking beef” sandwich, which comes with tenderloin strips, greens, tomatoes and onions.

“People love it,” Nguyen said. “I use high-quality tenderloin. Nothing can go wrong when you put beef like that in a sandwich.”

Nguyen has a long history in Tucson’s food service industry. He emigrated to Arizona from Vietnam in 1986.

Over the years, he has worked at his fair share of local restaurants, most recently as a manager at Miss Saigon Bar & Grill, 4650 W. Ina Road. He helped get Ha Long Bay, another Vietnamese restaurant, off the ground when it opened in 2001 on East Broadway. Nguyen uses its current location on East Tanque Verde Road as his food prep space.

“The owner is like family to me,” Nguyen said.

You can find Vina Baguette on its Facebook page or by calling 270-7779.

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at ggay@azstarnet.com or 807-8430.

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