Like Mom Makes

The Le brothers' Daybreak Café specializes in homey Vietnamese flavors

Like Mom Makes
Meghan Kirk
Daybreak owner Thomas Le (bottom right) prides himself on making traditional-style banh mi sandwiches.

For Thomas Le and his brother Johnny, finding a worthy banh mi in Spokane was a frustrating enough exercise, they figured the only way to enjoy the Vietnamese sandwich was to make it themselves.

Lucky for them, their Vietnamese mother showed them the way to create the tasty subs full of fresh pickled veggies, jalapeños and a variety of meats, and they used that knowledge to open the Daybreak Café on Ash Street nearly a year ago.

"I learned it from my mom," Thomas says of banh mi, the focus of a Daybreak Café menu that also includes coffee and espresso, smoothies and a variety of breakfast baguettes. "She's the heart and soul of the whole thing."

Originally from Chicago, the Le brothers moved to Spokane as kids and graduated from high school locally before heading to Seattle to open a couple of pho restaurants. When they decided to move back to Spokane to be closer their family, Thomas says, "we noticed around town that when we eat a banh mi, it's not really authentic."

For Le, "authentic" starts with liver paté and a mayo spread, and the most important aspect of any banh mi, he says, is "the bread. It's got to be nice and crispy, fluffy."

At Daybreak, the sandwiches cost less than $5, and the most popular is the "traditional," which comes with pork. Also available are turkey and chicken versions, as well as ginger or lemongrass tofu for the vegetarians.

The vibe inside Daybreak, situated in a small strip mall, is that of a casual deli or coffee shop. On a recent weekday, some students huddled over computers at a couple of the dozen or so tables while Law & Order played at low volume on a couple of TVs. There's a couch for lounging, and sweet treats like cookies, Italian sodas or green tea ice cream if a hearty sandwich is too much. ♦

Daybreak Café • 2323 N. Ash, Suite B • Open Mon-Fri, 10 am-4 pm; Sat-Sun, 10 am-5 pm • • 328-0909

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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...