Ba Bar’s South Lake Union location just added a walk-up window that serves a menu of entirely vegan dishes, separate from the pho and rotisserie duck breast plates that happen inside the main restaurant.
Eric Banh, who founded the Saigon Siblings restaurant group with his sister Sophie, says the idea was brewing for more than two years. The pandemic gave he and his wife, Teresa Nguyen, and chef Chris Michel an unexpected amount of time for R&D. The resulting menu explores territory well beyond Banh’s native Vietnam. “So many dishes there are very subtle,” he says. In America, “our palates increasingly crave more pronounced flavors.”
Michel draws from food cultures across Southeast Asia for dishes like kabocha and sweet potato laksa, dan dan noodles, and a Lao-style salad of crispy rice and quinoa. The tofu banh mi nods to the version Banh used to sell at Baguette Box, now with Michel’s housemade vegan mayo. Hell, there’s even a chorizo banh mi, made with soyrizo.
Recent advances in meatless proteins also made Ba Bar Green feel viable. “A lot of these fake meats, they’re made from very glutinous substitutes,” says Banh, himself a gluten-intolerant eater. We didn’t want to do that.” At Ba Bar Green, Just Egg enriches the Singapore-style lemongrass tofu noodles, and Beyond Sausage pops up in that crispy salad and the garlic and kimchi fried rice.
Banh may own some of the town’s classic spots (Monsoon debuted in 1999; Ba Bar turned 10 this summer). But he’s also an unabashed observer of the zeitgeist, swift to seize upon national movements from macarons to moscow mules to the Great Slushy Cocktail Craze of 2013. Plant-based eating has become increasingly mainstream, for health or sustainability reasons, even among omnivores who just want to dial back their meat consumption. New York’s Eleven Madison Park famously went vegan this year, though hopefully Ba Bar Green earns a better reception.
Banh says his time running beef-centric Seven Beef and Central Smoke also exposed him to the energy and work involved in raising cows. “I accept a mistake and we move on,” he says.
In classic South Lake Union fashion, Ba Bar Green offers online ordering, plus grab-and-go dishes along with the made-to-order menu. The vegan menu is available only at the walk-up window built into the restaurant’s former pastry production space. Customers can take it inside to the dining room, says Banh, if they buy a soda or beer or some such. The adjacent patio gets a canopy this week to protect outdoor diners during the winter. Ba Bar Green serves food Tuesday through Saturday from 11–6 (ooh and free garage parking around the corner off Republican); you can check out the menu right over here.