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Food & Drink

5 Things to Know About D’s Banh Mi, the Year-Round Restaurant Coming to the Ol’ Snack Shack

OK, we spoiled one of the things: Unlike under previous owners Dave's Popcorn and Milk Jam, the 38th Street hut will be open all year.

@dat_briguy

1. D’s Banh Mi is a family affair

You know Hilda’s Hair Hut at 4156 Cedar Ave. S. in south Minneapolis? It’s owned/run by Hilda Tov, who just purchased the former Dave’s Popcorn/Milk Jam snack shack four blocks to the north at 1848 E. 38th St.

“My sons are the owners of the business–Dylan, Dyon, and Dustin,” she says. “We’ve been searching in the neighborhood since my oldest son, Dylan, the chef, was 18. He’s 29 now. Sometime in June, this just came about, we came, saw it, loved it, it was exactly what we were looking for. We made the offer, and here here we are to today.”

The brothers Tran hope to have D’s Banh Mi up ‘n’ running by November.

2. Vietnamese for carnivores, vegetarians, and vegans

Dylan Tran has worked at Orchid Restaurant, a Vietnamese fusion spot in White Bear Lake, for over a decade.

“He loves cooking grilled anything, every meat. This is something new for all of us, but we kinda know what to do,” Tov says. “Banh mi is gonna be the main menu item, and for gluten-free customers we’ll have rice noodle bowl salad, spring rolls, and egg rolls. I’m also vegan, so we’ll incorporate lots of vegan options: curry tofu, mock tuck, roasted king oyster mushrooms. I’ll be out there every Sunday making the special vegan option.”

Tran will cook up plenty of meaty sandwiches and bowls, but his mom thinks their veggie options will set D’s Banh Mi apart.

“All the vegans and vegetarians will love it,” Tov promises. “For the vegan type of cooking we have here, diners will love it; it’ll be unlike anything else they’ve tried.” 

3. Finally, all-season dining at the 38th Street snack shack

Dave’s Popcorn was always seasonal, as was the short-lived ice cream/hot dog experiment that followed it. (In fact, neighbors griped that the Wadi brothers struggled to keep the snack shack open even during summers.)

D’s Banh Mi will be open year-round, mostly as a takeout destination but the Tran brothers have big plans for the underutilized outdoor space.

“They didn’t have a kitchen in there, so the people installing the kitchen–the hood, and all the equipment–won’t be here for five weeks,” Tov says. “We’re doing a new patio that’s heated so people can sit there in the winter, a closed-down winter patio. So in the wintertime we’ll probably incorporate some soups, Vietnamese soups like pho.” 

4. Its snack-shack home has a long, rich neighborhood history

Originally built in 1951, the 280-square-foot structure was in rough shape when Milk Jam Creamery took over in 2018, co-owner Sameh Wadi told the Star Tribune: “There was a leak in the roof, and when we went to fix it we found an original sign that had been chopped up and used as roofing material. No wonder it was leaking.”

The Dave’s Popcorn brand traces back 105 years to a small stand owned by Dave Lynd at Cedar Ave. & Minnehaha Pkwy., which became a neighborhood landmark until its demolition in 1963. The biz would re-emerge a few years later under new ownership at 1848 E. 38th St., and frequently change hands over the years. In 1981, incensed owner Helen Princell wrote to the Minneapolis Star regarding a sub-optimal review: “How can your testers expect to taste the subtle flavor of our un-buttered corn, washing it down with beer, etc.?” Until Milk Jam’s recent makeover, the exterior sign was always punctuated by “IN THE OLD TRADITION OF DAVE’S.”

Previous owner Andy Gray, a pastor at nearby Urban Refuge Church, acquired the snack shack in 2015.

“My three kids have graduated, one of ’em moved outta town, so my family labor force is not available,” he told me before selling the place to the Wadis. “[Dave’s] feels like it’s a neighborhood treasure, people really wanna see it stay open. We get nostalgic stories all the time, all kinds of fantastic stories.”

5. It’ll help fix a Vietnamese food desert

“We really wanted it in this part of the city,” Tov says, expressing her love for the Powderhorn neighborhood. But she agrees: East of I-35W and south of Lake Street, Minneapolis becomes a veritable Vietnamese desert. This Google Map search for “Vietnamese restaurants” proves our theory:

D’s Banh Mi will help remedy that, and maybe even draw in sandwich lovers from around the city.

“If you’ve had banh mi elsewhere, you’ve not had this type of banh mi,” Tov promises.