Deli Zone was the fast-casual sandwich shop you could find at every college campus, where cold or hot sandwiches were in no short supply. The only requirement was fitting — it had to be on a hoagie roll. It was a trip to a New York-style deli or bodega – it thrived on speed, consistency and their signature pastrami or breakfast sandwich. As each crooked blue letter came down from their sign, it left neighbors wondering what was next – possibly a long-term vacancy?
Without much preparation – new tenants have arrived. Little Bakery House wears red instead of crimson (DU’s color) but has been well received by those living around DU. Most people perked up thinking they had their birthday parties and sweet cravings covered, but owner Tom Xu excitedly shares with them the Vietnamese twist on bakeries.
Rather than sugar ladened cookies and cakes, Vietnamese bakeries specialize in sandwiches – specifically the banh mi. The fillings may hold the excitement but the bread is what can differentiate a memorable sandwich from a forgettable one. Each morning the baguette-shaped buns bake in their oven. The crust is like a thin shell concealing the airy, chewy bread within.
Little Bakery House maintains lightness in their sandwiches by trading in lettuce and tomato for more authentic Vietnamese vegetables like pickled carrots, radishes, jalapeños, and cilantro sprigs. It brings the freshness that a spring roll offers, but in an alternative medium.
The House Special ($11.95) gives a nostalgic nod to a cold-cut sandwich that many would recognize. It’s a trio of pork – almost emulating an Italian grinder. Other traditional assortments include fried pork tenderloin – known as tonkatsu – and beef brisket. Fried chicken sandwiches lend themselves to fast food, but Xu hopes his will have people stopping here instead. They utilize panko – these flakey bread crumbs are the Japanese spin to a flour dredge. The pork gets the same breading treatment and the chicken cutlet is pounded down similarly to a chicken parm.
As strange as it may sound to not serve more than sandwiches from a place with “bakery” in its name, they have more items that don’t see any oven time. Most of their sandwiches translate into rice or noodle bowls as well.
Although a sugar rush won’t be the result of eating at Little Bakery House, people are rushing to try out this new sandwich shop. Xu’s experience in the restaurant industry –since childhood – helps prepare him for the line that will soon swing around the corner.
This marks another diverse business to come around the University of Denver and offer students a special dining experience to their busy lives. Little Bakery House is a grab-and-go that people will quickly start to know.
All photography by Brandon Jonhson.