Couple brings authentic banh mi, Vietnamese coffee to Downtown
Banh Mi 47 one of first restaurants worldwide to serve Impossible pork
ALBANY, NY: An eatery that serves authentic Vietnamese sandwiches and coffee was welcomed to downtown Albany with a ribbon cutting ceremony today, December 7, 2021. Joining Owners Mike and Stacy Nguyen and Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Georgette Steffens in celebrating Banh Mi 47 at its 74 N Pearl Street location were City of Albany Treasurer Darius Shahinfar, and County Senior Policy Analyst Lucas Rogers.
For Mike and Stacy Nguyen, the journey to opening a restaurant – the first either of them has opened or worked in – started with banh mi bread. Growing up, Mike’s family would often take trips to metro areas in the US that house larger Vietnamese populations to dine on good banh mi sandwiches, but it wasn’t until he traveled to Vietnam that his view of the specialty bread would change forever. That experience and marrying Stacy, who Mike calls a great baker, and friends encouraging the couple to open a restaurant based on the banh mi sandwiches they were making at home, all planted the seed from which Banh Mi 47 grew.
In 2017, Stacy began working to perfect a recipe for the traditional Vietnamese baguette made from wheat flour with a thin, crispy crust and airy texture. After multiple close but not quite right attempts at making the specialty bread, Mike, Stacy, and their children took a vacation to Vietnam in 2018. It was once Stacy ate banh mi in Vietnam that a light went off, and the couple researched both recipes and the kitchen equipment that would be needed to perfect the bread. A few months after their return from that trip, with the recipe complete, Mike and Stacy began looking for a space to open.
The search for a location started in the Latham area, but ultimately it was the combination of a strong office employee base in Downtown and the plan Redburn Development Partners was putting in place to bolster the residential community that led the couple to open in the Kenmore Building. Inside the space that’s approximately 790 square feet, Stacy bakes the banh mi bread daily, and when customers enter they are greeted by the smells of both the baguette and the proteins and toppings that are placed within.
Recipes that Mike and Stacy developed are based on family recipes and meals enjoyed at restaurants, and while staying true to authentic cuisine, the duo also worked to put their own spin on some menu items including fried tofu. All sandwiches are served with house made mayo, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, cilantro, and a splash of maggi, with hot peppers optional. Available meats and vegan options include bbq pork, silky sausage, and pate (Xá Xíu), grilled beef (Bò Nướng), lemongrass chicken (Gà Nướng Sả), lemongrass tofu (Đậu Hũ Chiên Sả), and Impossible pork meatballs (Xíu Mại Chạy). The latter is especially noteworthy because Banh Mi 47 is one of only a handful of restaurants worldwide that currently serve Impossible pork. News of the offering spread far and wide, with coverage coming both locally and, in what Mike calls a surreal moment, international Vietnamese language news channel SBTN covered the story.
In addition to the taste of Vietnamese food, customers also have the opportunity to sip on authentic Vietnamese coffee, available iced and hot, served at the eatery. Differing from the Arabica bean people typically think of with coffee, Ca Phe is made with Robusta beans and traditionally uses a Vietnamese Phin coffee filter and served with sweetened condensed milk. Mike says they are currently using drip and espresso machine brewing methods but plan to offer the traditional Phin coffee experience in the spring when the weather gets nicer, and they can take advantage of their outdoor cafe permit. Banh Mi 47 uses only Nguyen Coffee Supply coffee, with Mike pointing out that many Vietnamese restaurants in the US serve Café Du Monde coffee with chicory, and while he says that can be good and strong, it is “not truly” Vietnamese coffee. Robusta beans, he adds, are integral to the Vietnamese coffee culture, and have more antioxidants, and less fats and sugar than Arabica beans.
Sandwiches and coffee make exploring new cuisines and cultures very approachable, Mike says, adding that their customers are a mix of people who have discovered Banh Mi 47 by walking by or word of mouth, and those who previously travelled to Vietnam or lived in another area that was home to a banh mi shop. Having received overwhelmingly positive feedback, customers who have experienced banh mi before often say that Banh Mi 47’s is as good or better than what they’ve had before. It is this kind of experience that Mike and Stacy hoped to infuse into Downtown, sharing a culture and food in an accessible and inexpensive way, with coffee and sandwich pricing ranging from $2-$10. The recipe for both the bread and their success is working well, given that shortly after opening Banh Mi 47 had several days of selling out.
Banh Mi 47 Co-owner Mike Nguyen said: “Stacy and I are thrilled to have joined the Downtown community. The welcome we have received has been overwhelmingly positive, and we are excited to already have repeat customers. Downtown Albany is an incredible mix of people from all different places and walks of life, and we are grateful to those who have started their Vietnamese cuisine journey with us, and to those who have not tried banh mi yet, we invite you to come and experience a delicious meal with us. We look forward to welcoming you soon.”
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said: “I’m thrilled to welcome Banh Mi 47 to downtown Albany. It is exciting to see new restaurants cropping up, especially after what the industry has recently had to endure due to the pandemic. I am particularly excited to have this Vietnamese option available for Downtown diners and want to thank Redburn Development for their partnership. My staff and I have already gotten lunch at Banh Mi 47 a few times and I can assure you that it is worth a trip to see Mike and Stacy and try their delicious banh mi.”
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said: “It’s great to see the revitalization of Downtown Albany continue with the latest addition to the newly renovated Kenmore Building, and I’m thrilled to welcome Banh Mi 47 to Albany County. A recent report from the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City showed the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area with the second highest employment improvement of any metro area in the country between 2020 and 2021. As we continue to rebuild the economy, it’s entrepreneurs like Mike and Stacy Nguyen who are helping us create vibrant and stable downtown communities that local residents can be proud of.”
Downtown Albany BID Executive Director Georgette Steffens said: "Downtown Albany is the heart of the Capital City, and the heartbeat grows stronger with every business that opens here. Food brings people together in a way few other things can, and after so many months of losing out on collective experiences, we are so grateful that our neighborhood residents, employees, and visitors now have another destination to meet and experience something that is truly unique and delicious. Congratulations, Mike and Stacy, on the opening of Banh Mi 47, and thank you for adding to the diversity of cuisine found here, your investment in our community, and taking an active role in Downtown’s bright future.”
Banh Mi 47, located at 74 N Pearl Street, is open Tuesday-Friday 11:30 AM-6:00 PM, and Saturday-Sunday 11:00 AM-3:00 PM. For more information, visit banhmi47.com or follow them on Facebook at facebook.com/banhmi47official and Instagram at instagram.com/banhmi47albany.