clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
A banh mi and a bottle of Sriracha hot sauce sit on a marble table at Coconana.
A grilled pork banh mi from Coconana.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

Filed under:

Find Soft and Squishy Banh Mi at This Vietnamese Restaurant Hiding in a Bar Basement

Coconana has been operating out of the downstairs kitchen at 390 Social since late February

New York’s Vietnamese food scene is still relatively young compared to places like Orange County, California, and Houston, Texas. As recently as a decade ago, many of the city’s Vietnamese restaurants were found in Chinatown and run by Hoa, ethnic Chinese immigrants who were born and raised in Vietnam. The landscape has changed over time, welcoming businesses like Bánh on the Upper West Side and the pop-up Ha’s Dac Biet, but there’s still room for underrepresented dishes to rear their heads.

One turned up last month in the basement of a Park Slope bar. Coconana, run by the chef Hanh “Hannah” Nguyen, has been operating out of the downstairs kitchen of 390 Social during the bar’s off-hours since late February. From out front, the only indicator that there’s a restaurant on the premises is a small sandwich board propped up out front advertising grilled chicken banh mi and pea flower lattes.

Step inside, and Nguyen will emerge from the basement to take your order. She makes banh mi in a half-dozen fashions, though probably not the ones you’re thinking of. Her sandwiches are soft, not crusty, falling somewhere between a canceled Martin’s potato bun and a hero roll plucked from a bodega display case.

“Different parts of Vietnam produce different bread,” she says, and in turn, different banh mi. In Nha Trang, the coastal Vietnamese city Nguyen is from, the chef grew up eating banh mi on softer bread, she says. In Vietnamese restaurants across New York City, baguettes with crisp crusts and soft interiors are standard.

A banh mi sandwich overflows with jalapenos, pink meats, cilantro, and pickled vegetables.
The cold cut banh mi.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

The classic cold-cut version is made with slices of ham, pork roll, pork liver pate, pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, jalapeno, cilantro, and mayonnaise. Nguyen finishes the sandwich with slices of pork jelly, made by combining nose, ear, and tongue meats with collagen, refrigerating the mixture in a metal can for shape, then slicing the log into soft discs of meat that crunch with cartilage.

Other banh mi are made with meatballs and pineapple, grilled chicken and pork marinated with tart lemongrass, fried eggs, and eggplant. The sandwiches are $9 each and, at six inches, smaller than other options in the city, another quirk Nguyen chalks up to her upbringing. “The portions here are so much larger,” she says. “These are the ones I’m used to from home.”

Until last fall, Nguyen operated out of a storefront at 53 Sixth Avenue, between Dean and Bergen streets, in Prospect Heights. Coconana opened there with a one-year lease in November 2021, which sounded like a dream until the terms of her deal changed last fall. The owners of 390 Social approached her earlier this year, and she’s been running the business out of their basement during weekday afternoons since late February.

The menu was bigger in Prospect Heights, where Nguyen doled out sticky rice balls with mung beans, translucent summer rolls, skewered ca keo, lobster udon, and other ambitious Vietnamese fare as weekly specials. There are plans to bring some of those dishes to the menu in Park Slope, but she’s waiting for Coconana to find its footing in a new neighborhood.

Until then, find Nguyen carting orders of soft banh mi up the stairs of 390 Social from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.

A person using their phone passes in front of a restaurant whose sign reads “390 Social” in white letters.
Coconana operates out of 390 Social during weekday afternoons.
Luke Fortney/Eater NY

NYC Restaurant Closings

It Was Another Big Week of Restaurant Closures in New York City


There’s No Escaping the Department Store Omakase

NYC Pop-Up Restaurants

The Hottest Pop-Ups in NYC Right Now

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater New York newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world