Published January 26th, 2018 at 6:00 AM
You never know what you’ll discover in a thrift shop: a pair of bell bottoms, the latest Babysitters Club graphic novel or a Vietnamese noodle shop.
Mi Gia (6569 N. Oak Trafficway) opened last September in a former thrift shop space that has been gutted and divided into three Asian eateries (Poke Bar and the forthcoming Sushi Omasake).
“It’s homestyle cooking in a restaurant,” Teresa Le, the daughter of owners Win Le and his wife Nhi Tran, said. “This is traditional comfort food at home, it’s what my mom used to make for me growing up.”
Mi Gia (prounced “Mee Yaa,”) is part of a wholescale redevelopment of what is now the Pagoda Village center on North Oak Trafficway. The strip mall is in transition — GoCha Tea & Beverages and Broken Rice sit between Rent-A-Center and the Dollar General.
“We live in Grandview, and we drive 30 minutes here because of what’s happening in this place,” Teresa said.
Win always thought he would open a restaurant when he retired. But life and global market forces intervened. The local semiconductor company where he worked outsourced a contract to China. Out of a job, he decided to pursue his dream.
“I hope we can show people homemade food,” Win said. “At my old job, I’d work every day for 10 hours and not see my family. [Now] my family is here.”
He knows that his wife is a talented cook. For the past several years, they’d been selling out of noodles during weekend gatherings organized by the Holy Martyrs Church.
“My dad had confidence in my mom’s cooking,” Teresa said. “I love sharing my mom’s food because I know it’s really good.”
Tran is the chef, while her husband shops, does some prep work, and washes the dishes. Their daughter Teresa manages the front of the house, while her younger sister Michelle works the register and serves tables.
“We have to be here full time, all the time,” Teresa said. “But all we can do is push through and try our hardest.”
Mi Gia is a noodle house serving rice and egg noodles. Teresa often steers first-timers toward the rice noodles, which are a little less heavy than the egg noodles. The egg noodles (Cac Loai Mi) are gluten-free and come in a pork broth. Mi La Cay has been a popular entree with Chinese barbecue pork, pig liver and heart, quail eggs and shrimp crisp.
Mi Gia serves a pork wonton soup, as well as daily specials (marked with a sticky note and a hand-drawn sad face when sold out). Bun Bo Hue is thick rice noodles in pork broth topped with sliced beef and pork, scallions, and cilantro. The sweet potato and chicken curry, Ca Ri Ga, is made with turmeric powder from Vietnam, coconut milk, lemongrass and basil.
On the weekends, Tran’s pho takes center stage. The Pho Dac Biet, rice noodles in beef broth with sliced beef, meatballs, and tendons, is a family recipe. Tran grew up cooking alongside her grandmother and baking with her great-grandmother.
“I’m always down for my mom’s pho, it’s not too oily. I’m not crazy about oily stuff, that can get overpowering fast,” Teresa said.
The broth, a blend of 10 different spices (Vietnamese cinnamon, star anise and pepper, among them), takes eight to 10 hours to make.
“It’s weird. I would go home and eat pho,” Teresa said. “But now, it’s trendy — something that people say, ‘oh let’s Instagram this.'”
Mi Gia also serves Vietnamese Iced Coffee, Vietnamese lemonade soda and salted kumquat juice. Dessert is in the works. Before opening the restaurant, Tran baked wedding cakes. Over the holidays, she made Yule Logs and she hopes to add baked goods and desserts to the menu. Her dream is to open a bakery.
“I hope that people can support us so that we have a good chance and opportunity to serve people for a long time,” Win said.
Mi Gia is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
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