Of all the restaurants lost to Austin’s last shutter cycle —the 2016 bloodbath that claimed favorites like La V, Gardner, and Malaga — perhaps the most sorely missed was tiny banh mi shop Ng BMT. So, it is particularly welcome news that during 2018’s similarly turbulent climate, the eatery is back and better than ever.
During its last incarnation, the Vietnamese sandwich shop had planned to move from a tiny outpost inside Lucky Bakery on Research Boulevard to a standalone brick-and-mortar. Financial difficulties got in the way, and it closed in December 2016.
But it wasn’t long before owners Y and Nguyet Quach were back in the restaurant business. Nguyet tells CultureMap that the couple’s next step was taking over operations of Chang Thai Thai Cuisine at 13000 N. IH 35 Ste. 200 in April of 2017. The restaurant was in bad shape, so with the help of friends and family, they slowly started renovating the eatery.
When all the work was done, the proud owners wanted to bring back the Ng name — rechristening the restaurant as Ng Cafe as a nod to the original. On July 24, they celebrated the return with a grand opening and ribbon cutting.
The new name also recognizes an evolution of the business. In addition to the popular banh mi, served on French baguettes that Nguyet bakes fresh every morning, Ng Cafe serves a variety of Thai specialties like Tom Yum soup, papaya salad, larb chicken, and mango sweet rice.
Nguyet admits there may be questions why someone of Vietnamese and Chinese heritage is cooking Thai food, but says she and Y have been in the food business for a long time, and chefs find inspiration in a variety of places.
In fact, the crossover of cultures have inspired an innovation on the menu. Nguyet says that unlike in Thai culture where curries are eaten with rice, it is the Vietnamese custom to eat the dish with baguettes. The result is the best of both worlds, something also seen on the dessert menu where customers can order everything from shortbread cookies to Hong Kong-style mochi.
Whatever the type of cuisine, the return of Ng is welcome. Although, upscale Asian eateries are some of the most acclaimed in the city, Austin has traditionally had a lack of quality mom-and-pop shops that truly make a food scene great.
But despite the hiccups in her own business and a finicky dining public, Nguyet remains undeterred. “No matter what culture you’re coming from,” she says, “if you’re good at what you do, people will enjoy it.”