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The Communicator NEWS & POLITICS

Small Business Spotlight: Banh Mi Barista


Photo credit: Mikaela Conley

Written by: Mikaela ConleyMay 21, 2015

Looking for an alternative to the normal shakes, ice cream or snow cones this summer?

Banh Mi Barista on Coldwater road has unique summer treats and ethnic food.

Thao Le first dreamt about opening a Vietnamese style restaurant when she was 14- years- old, but never thought it was realistic. After going to Indiana University to study Chemistry and working in pharmaceuticals, Le pursued her dream and opened the shop in 2013.

Le said that it does not hurt to try new things and “I didn’t want to regret not doing it. So here we are. And it has been really rewarding.”

The business also brought new items to the area.

“I felt like Fort Wayne needed a new type of food, and we wanted to expose people to viatnamese food that is not traditional to the area,” Le said. “Ours is more like street food.”

Bubble tea, more commonly found in larger cities, has also become more popular recently in the Fort Wayne area, although, Le mentioned that, at first, a lot of people were hesitant to try something new.

She said, “Some people have struggled with the concept because you are essentially eating and drinking something at the same time, but it is really no different than drinking a smoothie or a milkshake. Those can have chunks of things in them too.”

The name of the shop comes from their combination of specialty drinks and food, because “bahn mi” means bread or sandwich and “barista” is someone who makes coffee or drinks.

A large amount of Le’s customers have become regulars.


“They call us to order ahead and we automatically know what they want,” she said, also mentioning that the majority of her nine employees are either family, former regulars, or IPFW students.

Le’s brother is the head cook, her niece is a manager, and her mother makes special desserts.

With this, “it is a really chill environment,” she said, making it a good place to study for classes or take a break from the summer heat.

The shop is busiest during its lunch hour rush from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m., but they are open Monday- Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. – 7 p.m, and Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Le also tries to get the word out about their drinks by going to events such as the Three Rivers Festival and Taste of the Arts.

Making herself stand out in the community, Le also offers vegetarian and gluten- free options and makes homemade desserts and ice cream for special occasions.

“I like to make funky flavors,” Le said. “And I like to make things that you can’t get anywhere else, because why else would someone come here if they could just get the same things somewhere else?”

Le hopes to expand her business and open a shop downtown in the future.