Charlotte’s favorite banh mi spot, Le’s Sandwiches & Cafe will not be selling, but passing the torch to next generation

By Beth Mack

March 11, 2022

As Charlotte continues to grow, change is inevitable to accommodate more residents and incoming businesses. That growth has caused some of Charlotte’s most iconic restaurants to call it quits, but not yet for Le’s Sandwiches & Cafe.

The banh mi shop that opened in 1996 off of Central Avenue, eventually relocated to its current home inside Asian Corner Mall in 2004, becoming a regional staple. After over 20 years of serving up some of the best banh mi in the state, owners of Le’s Sandwiches & Cafe, Le and Minh Nguyen, are officially hanging up their aprons.

L to R: Tuan Nguyen, Minh Nguyen and Le Nguyen. Photo: Kurt Shackelford

Their son, Tuan Nguyen, who grew up with the business and helped with everything from making sandwiches to developing their brand, was initially hesitant to take over the business. The pandemic presented challenges to the restaurant industry and his young family, so the Ngyuen’s listed the business for sale this past December. 

With the uncertainty of Asian Corner Mall, the Nguyens were limited in their ability to sell the business without the promise of a physical location. After much discussion with his wife Emily, Tuan decided to officially take the reins as Le’s new owner and operator. He’s looking to add his own twist to the business while building on the foundation his parents have laid. 

“You know they are doing something right, since we’ve been around since 1996. The shop probably won’t change too much from what it is now,” said Tuan. 

Grilled pork banh mi at Le’s Sandwiches and Cafe. Photo: Kurt Shackelford

The biggest change will be the new location. They are in the process of securing a space nearby in the Sugar Creek area. The move should offer more space for additional kitchen equipment, seating, and provide more visibility. Tuan is relieved to be able to stay in the same area and is encouraging the new owners of the property to keep it as an Asian hub. 

“The Asian Corner Mall [originally the Tryon Mall] has been here since the ‘90s. Since I was in high school, and you know, there’s a lot of memories…it’s pretty much a Charlotte thing, like, everybody knows Asian Corner Mall,” said Tuan. 

He’s looking forward to the larger footprint that will enable Le’s to enhance their offerings, and even considering new ovens so they can bake their bread in-house. With the popularity of bubble tea, Tuan is also looking to grow their existing line of teas and hand-crafted Vietnamese beverages. 

Tuan Nguyen is looking to grow their existing line of bubble teas and hand-crafted Vietnamese beverages at the new shop. Photo: Kurt Shackelford

As far as the aesthetic of the new location, Le’s will remain as authentic as possible. “I kind of want to keep the feel like you’re at a destination. I want the shop to feel like you’re in Vietnam– the sounds, the smells, the colors,” said Tuan.  

For Le and Minh Nguyen, you can still expect to find them in the shop helping out from time to time when they are not traveling back to Vietnam to visit family. 

“My parents, you know, they’re gonna miss their customers, of course…it’s their baby. It’s what they built, and it’s my mom’s name,” Tuan said.

Photo: Kurt Shackelford

If all goes as planned, Le’s will continue operations at their current location until July with the new restaurant expected to open later this year in November or December.

Le’s Sandwiches & Cafe
4520 N. Tryon St. #41
Charlotte, NC 28213

Thursday – Monday: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday + Wednesday: Closed

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