DID YOU KNOWBanh mi sandwiches developed in Vietnam because baguettes arrived in the 1800s when the country was part of French Indochina. In Vietnam, they are eaten for breakfast or a snack, but are considered too dry for lunch or dinner.
But the funky East Dallas bar also features some of the best Vietnamese food in the area.
Jackson Tran is the chef behind the Vietnamese cuisine at Cosmo’s, serving up tasty bun (vermicelli noodles), banh mi (baguette sandwich) and pho (noodle soup) several nights a week.
The Bryan Adams High School graduate has come a long way. Tran’s parents were in the street food business in Vietnam, selling meals in a floating market in the Mekong Delta. After becoming boat people when they fled their home after the Vietnam War, the family headed to an Indonesian refugee camp while Tran’s mother was pregnant with him. Tran’s parents’ boat was attacked and robbed by Thai pirates en route to Indonesia. They were rescued by Indonesian authorities, but lost all of their possessions.
Tran was born in Galang, a refugee camp in Indonesia, and he lived there until he was 2. Sponsored by a Baptist church in Connecticut, the family made it to Texas after a couple of New England winters taught them they were not cold weather people.
They moved to the Casa View area, opening Vietnam Restaurant in 1982. Tran worked at the restaurant growing up and learned to cook from his mother, Thua Tran. “I was peeling a lot of garlic cloves,” he says.
The restaurant closed in 2000. Tran thought about a career in theater (he was in Shakespeare in the Park and Kitchen Dog Theater productions), but he found his way back to the restaurant industry when he began bartending at Cosmo’s, which opened shortly after his parents’ restaurant closed.
Gerald Stogsdill, who owns the bar with his sister Debra Peña, had been a regular at Vietnam Restaurant in Casa View and knew Tran since he was 14. Tran suggested he make some banh mi on Monday nights about eight years ago to attract customers earlier in the night. Word spread, the food began to sell out and the menu expanded.
Today, Tran and sous chef Trevor Ricci make pho and banh mi every evening. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays feature full menus that include spicy egg noodle soup, kimchi tater tots and oyster mushrooms along with banh mi, pho and bun. Pair it with a Lucky Buddha, an Asian rice lager, for best results. “I like having more options for the patrons,” he says. “These recipes are passed down from 1983 to now.”
A couple years ago, Cosmo’s upgraded the kitchen. Tran doesn’t have plans to go anywhere.
“I have been working here for 17 years, and I like that it’s a family-based business. I love the camaraderie of it all,” he says. “Lakewood means a lot to me.”
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