A soon-to-be-open destination for authentic Vietnamese eats has some big names attached to it, and they’re not just from Vancouver.
Lunch Lady will be opening at 1046 Commercial Drive in the former location of popular spot Five Elements Cafe, which closed for renovations last year.
This project is brought to us by restaurateur Michael Tran, his mother Victoria Tran, who previously ran Five Elements (she’s a partner at Lunch Lady), and Chef Ben Lim, who will be heading up the kitchen and overseeing day-to-day operations at the concept.
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If you’re a foodie, then the name of this spot will surely ring a bell.
“Lunch Lady” was a title given to Vietnamese food stall owner Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh by late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain during his visit to the famed street eats purveyor in Ho Chi Minh City during an episode of No Reservations.
From there, the already popular stall would be known worldwide as “The Lunch Lady” and locals and visitors would gather to try her world-famous noodle soups, which rotate daily.
So how exactly will Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh’s eats make it from South Vietnam all the way to East Vancouver?
Michael Tran first travelled to Vietnam in 2012 to connect with his roots; naturally, he stopped at The Lunch Lady, an experience that he says “changed his life forever.”
In 2018 the restaurateur reached out to Mrs. Nguyen and their partnership began. It was then that the first steps were taken to bring Lunch Lady to North America.
Five Elements Cafe’s 1,900-sq-ft space is currently being transformed into Lunch Lady. The restaurant will have seating for 55 and aims to be open for lunch and dinner daily.
When finished, diners will walk into a space designed by StudioCM. The team took design cues from the metropolitan streetscape of Ho Chi Minh City as well as the buildings that surround The Lunch Lady’s cart in an unassuming alleyway.
“The design aims to be utilitarian and unobtrusive, allowing the bright colours of the food to take the spotlight,” says Tran.
Lunch Lady’s branding and design will be done by Glasfurd & Walker. Tran gave us a sneak peek of the amazing work for the eatery that’s already been executed.
When it comes to lunchtime grub, you can expect a rotating selection of noodle soup dishes, just like you’d find at the food stall in Vietnam.
Think bun bo hue, bun thai, banh canh cua, and more. Folks will also find some neighbourhood favourites from Five Elements.
As for dinner, Tran tells us we’ll have to wait, as that spread is being kept a secret for now. What we can share is that the evening eats will “include a variety of unique
shareable family-style dishes using authentic and local ingredients.”
For drinks, there will be a selection of cocktails infused with Vietnamese flavours alongside classic beverages with a twist and Vietnamese beers.
“I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to carry on Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh’s legacy in the city I grew up in,” says Tran. “We are the first to bring this style of Vietnamese dining to Vancouver.”
We’ll keep you posted as more details are revealed for this spot — stay tuned!
Address: 1046 Commercial Drive, Vancouver