Saturday morning Trung Nam runs are becoming my new thing.
Trung Nam is a Vietnamese and French bakery located along University Avenue in the Frogtown neighborhood of Saint Paul. The owners have been serving french bread and croissants since 1989.
Although I remembered Heavy Table visiting Trung Nam in one of their Green Line Checklist chapters, what really pushed me to visit for the first time was learning they also serve banh mi sandwiches in the morning. Not only can you buy almost any flavor of croissant, but also a pork banh mi, too, all starting at 8 o’clock in the morning.
The House Sandwich pork loaf banh mi ($3.50) is the perfect breakfast. This one isn’t fancy or super-stuffed, by any means, but it’s just so good. Mild pork loaf (and maybe some roasted pork), spicy jalapeño slivers, cilantro sprigs, and tangy picked carrots tucked into freshly-baked french bread smeared with mayo and pate.
Three tips to remember before you visit:
- Arrive early.
- Bring cash.
- Buy at least two more things than you think you’ll want.
The line of customers will remain steady and payment is cash-only. On my first visit, I arrived closer to ten rather than eight and some of the flavors were starting to sell out. The woman in front of me tried to order an almond croissant. There were no more left.
I watched her face fall as she tried to mask an internal meltdown. She just kind of paused and scurried out of the restaurant without buying anything, totally dejected.
On my second visit, I ordered that almond croissant. I needed to know what made that woman so upset. As if the plain croissants aren’t delightful enough, the buttery almond croissant is lacquered in a light, sweet glaze and topped with slivered almonds. I understood that woman’s passion towards the croissant. However, I don’t get why she didn’t buy anything. The other croissants are still good!
The croissants are light and flaky with wispy, delicate pastry layers. They’re not super lacquered on the outside but they’re also not soft and foamy like cheap grocery store croissants. Just somewhere in between. They taste like real butter and have a gentle crisp on the outside.
If you enjoy one at home, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds or warm in the oven (if you’ve got more food patience) and enjoy.
All of the croissants cost $2.25 each except for the almond croissant which costs $4.75. You can also purchase almond cookies, palmiers, steamed pork buns, and Vietnamese coffee.
Trung Nam French Bakery, 739 University Avenue W., St. Paul, MN 55104, 651-229-0887, Open M-Sat 8-1pm.