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Oh Mai's family-run restaurant charms mom

By Natalie Barrett

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Jan. 3 2014 3:08 p.m. MST

Editor’s note: Natalie Barrett experiences what it’s like to dine out with her 4-year-old daughter, Elle.

What Oh Mai lacks in curb appeal, it makes up for in quality ingredients and tantalizing flavor.

Oh Mai specializes in Bahn Mi, aka the Vietnamese sandwich. And while that's interesting and adventurous sounding, I wore little makeup just in case Elle decided to throw it at me.

The first thing that caught my eye inside the restaurant (3425 S. State St. in Salt Lake City) wasn't anything to do with the establishment, but the presence of several families, all with young kids who weren't screaming or throwing things. Ten-year-old Max O'Reilly immediately charmed me with his short brown hair and a smile. He was eating pork and rice while his sister, also named Elle, ate the vegetarian spring rolls. They weren't shy at all.

"I like the braise on the pork and the flavor of the rice," Max said.

Then the other kids at their table wanted to talk, all at the same time. We talked about favorite foods, and bacon was the common consensus of best food ever. Max and Elle's mom then steered the conversation back to Oh Mai.

We ordered directly from the owner, Long Tran, just like everyone else in line. He was incredibly humble and appreciative of his customers.

"We've been here about two years and started it with my wife and family," he said. "We called it Oh Mai after my mother-in-law, whose name is Mai. And my mother's name is Mai, too."

After only three months of being open, they had to open a second location, Tran said. His "secret formula" is that the "quality of the food is good, no additives and the very reasonable price."

Before he let me leave, Tran had to make sure he said one thing. "I am so thankful for all the customers who have been supporting us since opening," he said.

Elle and I finally sat down to stuff our faces, and my pork Bahn mi was well worth it. It was served in a fresh baguette and full of spiced pork with a beautiful, crunchy sear and strips of colorful vegetables. It was easily the best sandwich/burger/item between two slabs of bread I have ever had.

Elle, on the other hand, was completely absorbed in her attempt to learn to use chopsticks in one night and not as impressed with her meal. Other children, however, were thoroughly enjoying their meals.

I will definitely be returning soon.

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