Last March, I was talking to Nammi truck owners Teena Nguyen and Gary Torres, and they casually mentioned that they had been thinking about a physical location to go along with their trucks. Since every truck owner has at least thought about this, I wasn’t surprised to hear it. A couple of times I checked with Nguyen or Torres, and while the idea was still alive, it seemed that the effort required to run three trucks (two for Nammi, one for their Coolhaus ice cream sandwich truck) was not leaving them much time to develop the storefront concept. Or so I thought.
Last week, I received an email letting me know that the Nammi test kitchen, also serving Coolhaus ice cream treats, was doing a soft opening inside Valley View Center in Dallas. It is no secret, and I make no apologies, that Nammi is my favorite truck, so I had to be among the first to see how it translated to a storefront. The food, the way Nguyen and Torres run their business, and their creativity come out strongly in this test kitchen.
The kitchen has a full menu, with most of the truck-tested favorites, including banh mi, tacos and rice bowls, along with new “kitchen-approved” items like sliders, nachos, panini and soup. Additionally, there is a “drink well” with offerings of teas and coffee. All of the teas will be made from fresh fruit — if you know Nammi, you know that powdered stuff is not an option.
Since I have been begging for pho from Nammi for the past 18 months, that was my lunch. Nguyen’s father is the mastermind behind the soups, and in his honor, the pho is called Dad’s chicken rice-noodle soup.
This is not your average Vietnamese-restaurant pho; the chicken is char-grilled before going in to the soup pot, and the sauces were fresh and flavorful. For vegans, the test kitchen also serves a spicy hue-style vegan soup.
While the Nammi test kitchen is in Valley View Mall, it does not have a generic mall feel. It is the first unit inside the Preston Road entrance, so if you don’t want to go farther in, you don’t have to. The path from the door leads straight to the movie theater, so dinner and a movie and then an ice cream sandwich on the way out would be a fun and delicious date night.
Nguyen and Torres did the majority of the build-out of the restaurant themselves — putting their architecture degrees to good use. They designed and covered the walls with recycled wooden pallets and built frames for the wall art and menus. Additional decor, including art and straw hats, pay homage to the culture of Vietnam.
As with any soft opening, the owners were working out all the kinks. The saddest one on this hot day was that the ice cream freezer wasn’t working properly and they couldn’t serve sandwiches. Oh, well. That just means I have to go back next week!
Nammi is still working out hours, but the plan for now is to be open 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday. Check the Nammi website for changes. And, truck lovers, have no fear: Nammi and Coolhaus trucks will continue to run at their usual locations and times.