With Los Angeles real estate prices at a premium, food-focused entrepreneurs have been forced to get increasingly creative to serve food to the public. No longer are pop-ups the only game in town. Food courts are becoming more prevalent. Smorgasburg LA, a Sunday culinary swap meet in the downtown Arts District, opened in 2016. now chefs are cohabitating with existing businesses, some of which don’t serve food. Armen Piskoulian and partner Casey Felton both worked at restaurants like Scarpetta and The Tasting Kitchen, traveled together to Australia, had the best banh mi of their lives, and returned to L.A. to launch Banh Oui.
The duo’s creative Asian comfort makes regular appearances at Smorgasburg LA and runs Wednesdays through Fridays in front of Hi-Tech Automotive, a Silver Lake auto repair shop. Piskoulian’s uncle Koko owns the property and revamped an old service station and installed carpets, red lounge, and black table seating. Yes, Banh Oui serves banh mi sandwiches, and their concept extends to fried chicken sandwiches, chicken wings, and next-level Shrimp Toast ($6). They spread buttery pain de mie with savory shrimp mousse and dunk the results in a deep-fryer. Crispy golden slabs are sprinkled with sesame seeds and dressed with squiggles of Sriracha and kewpie mayo. Enlightening cilantro and nouc cham dressing bring brightness to the flavor bomb, which doubles as a substantial starter or light meal.