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Ba Noi is a wildly popular micro-bakery in the Bloorcourt neighbourhood, singlehandedly run by chef and owner An Tran. Once doors opened last August, after a struggle to furnish the space with the right equipment and receive necessary financial support to get the business running, kitchen creations have been selling out immediately -- though not originally as planned.
When arrangements to open his vision for a coffee shop, micro-bakery and restaurant serving food that reflects his upbringing didn't pan out as expected, Tran decided to get started in his new space anyways as a one-man show and now sells some of the most highly sought after baked goods in the city.
At Ba Noi you can find gooey butter tarts, brown butter chocolate chip cookies and loaves of sourdough, an item that first started it all. Though these three options are his mainstays, you can often find other limited-run features that make an exclusive appearance during pick-up times. Find unique items like brioche cinnamon buns and most recently a breakfast bread with a runny egg at its core and onion and aged cheddar surrounding it baked in a sourdough bread.
With many frequent customers deeming Tran as the "bread-master," you know that grabbing a fresh loaf of naturally leavened sourdough is the way to go -- that is if you can even get your hands on one.
With online pre-orders selling out almost instantly and in-person lines that appear to never end, Ba Noi is creating its own community in this beloved neighbourhood, one which Tran holds dear to him.
Prior to being taken over by An Tran to be transformed into a restaurant, this space flourishing with vibrant green plants, outpouring the aroma of freshly baked bread through wide-open windows was home to the Tran family.
"The space is special to me not only because it's been a tough project, but it used to be my father's print shop, Express Printing. I grew up in the space in the basement. That was our home. He would cover the front window with plants and no one would know what the space was. Now that I have taken over, I am trying to emulate that same feel with plants in the window. It has been a part of this community for decades and I wanted to keep that aesthetic while offering food I grew up with," Tran says.
Tran's ultimate goal is to slowly incorporate other products like BBQ pork buns, hotdog buns and steamed Vietnamese bao into his menu. Tran also wishes to eventually complete the additional construction and installations needed inside the space, necessary for it to open up properly as a restaurant. When Tran finally executes his entire vision for Ba Noi, you already know it'll be worth a visit.
"The restaurant will serve food that I was raised on in a Vietnamese family growing up in Toronto from BBQ pork buns I used to eat from Chinatown after school to caramelized fish in a clay pot with tamarind tomato soup my parents would serve for dinner."
In continuing to keep with the concept of family and how important it is to him, Tran named his restaurant Ba Noi because it means grandmother in Vietnamese. The idea being that at Ba Noi, you're eating at grannies -- a warm and welcoming space one often associates with comfort and feeling at home.
Despite not being able to open and operate in an ideal way, Tran says, "Knowing that I have a connection to the space, to the neighbourhood, to the community gives me comfort. It really drives me and it moulds how Ba Noi will function in the future and how the business will adapt."
Ba Noi's walk-up window opens on Tuesday and Saturday from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m., but it's best to pre-order ahead of time to make sure you obtain that grain. Pre-order for Tuesday pick-up open on Sunday at 2 p.m. and pre-orders for Saturday pick-up take place on Wednesday at 2 p.m., all done via Ba Noi's website.