It’s hard to imagine that bánh mìs weren’t always the plan for Don Vongtheung and Kimberly Nguyen.
The space at 1980 W. Orange Grove Road was once Juice Envy, where Vongtheung and Nguyen fully expected to serve juice and smoothies.
After COVID-19 hit, they decided they needed to add more to the menu. Drawing inspiration from his favorite bánh mì spot in San Diego, Vongtheung decided to become one of the only places in the city where customers can indulge in the Vietnamese sandwiches.
Now they have Tucson addicted.
Banhdicted has been going strong since 2020, building a following of dedicated customers who love their milk teas and bánh mìs. Thanks to their success, Vongtheung and Nguyen are taking the next step: opening an east-side location on Sunrise Drive near Kolb Road.
Many customers take the long journey to Banhdicted, which Vongtheung lovingly refers to as a “field trip.” Many east-siders ask when the sandwiches will be available closer to them. After three years growth, Vongtheung and Nguyen decided to make east-siders’ dreams come true.
“It was one of those situations where we grew out of this location,” Vongtheung said. “I mean, we're always going to have it, it's our first location, but I want something more for my employees that have been around since day one.”
Vongtheung has always been a huge fan of bánh mìs, which are Vietnamese sandwiches made with baguettes, cucumber, homemade mayonnaise, pickled daikon, hot chiles and carrots. Before Banhdicted was even a thought, Vongtheung remembers going to Vina Vietnamese Street Food’s truck to get his fix.
Once the truck became a brick-and-mortar, their bánh mì selection dwindled, Vongtheung said. To satisfy his craving, he would ask Nguyen, who lived in San Diego at the time, to bring him a sandwich from his favorite bánh mì place in the beach town.
When they made the decision to add more items to their Juice Envy menu, it only made sense to bring what he loved in San Diego to Tucson. Thus, Banhdicted was born.
Banhdicted offers eight different varieties of the Vietnamese sandwich, each with their own unique flavors. Breakfast, barbecue pork, lemongrass beef, chicken, veggie and shrimp are just some of the options on the menu.
The most popular among the sandwiches is the AZ Special, also known as the bánh mì dac biet. It consists of Vietnamese ham, steamed pork belly, a spread of liver pate, mayonnaise, picked veggies, cucumber, jalapeños and fresh cilantro.
“It is something that you just can't get anywhere else,” Vongtheung said. “It's very savory and a well-balanced bánh mì. That's what I personally crave the most. If I wanted a bánh mì, it would be that.”
When it comes to making the bánh mìs, the key to perfection starts with the bread. Vongtheung said the bread must be a French bread and it must be crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.
After you have the perfect bread, it's crucial to know how to balance all the flavors that make up the sandwich.
“The other 50% would be, you know, the ingredients inside,” Vongtheung said. “So anything from the marination of the meats to how well the meat gets cut and cooked. Then believe it or not, the pickling of the carrots and daikon is very important. If you make the pickling of the daikon and carrots too sweet, then the whole sandwich is sweet. It needs to be a perfect balance of sweet and savory.”
Since the space was once Juice Envy, it only made sense that they continue to sell raw juices too. At Banhdicted, you can pair your sandwich with various green juices and smoothies. Vongtheung and Nguyen also sell Taiwanese milk tea, which is often a hit with customers.
Unlike other milk tea places, Banhdicted offers unique flavors like prickly pear, rose, durian and jackfruit. In fact, durian and prickly pear are two of their most popular flavors.
Last week, Vongtheung and Nguyen got the keys to their new east-side location. Now, they have to start from square one: working on construction and getting all the right permits.
For now, they are aiming to open the new space this summer. But in the meantime, you can still enjoy their tasty sandwiches at their original location or be on the lookout for their green food truck around town.
“We're just as ecstatic as scared,” Vongtheung said. “Kim and I are petrified right now. It’s definitely a lot of investments opening up a new location, it's the unknown, right? I honestly think if we weren't scared, then we're doing something wrong.”