Side Dishes: Two Asian spots switch to American grub
After a few years in which the number of Vietnamese eateries in Chittenden County grew by leaps and bounds, it appears we’ve reached the saturation point. Over the past few weeks, two businesses have moved away from serving fish-sauce- and cilantro-laced fare.
Wendy Piotrowski, who has worked at Sapa’s Coffee & Tea since its inception in April 2008, says she always believed in the budding business. When owners Khanh and Khuien Tran decided to leave the food service industry, she was happy to step in and buy them out. Beginning April 1, the 27-year-old took the reins of the comfy downtown Burlington café. Though a name change to Patra Café  is still in the works, Piotrowski has already put her stamp on Sapa’s.
Gone are the Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches in favor of panini made from high-quality ingredients. Piotrowski recommends the grilled veggie and fresh mozzarella sandwich and says she’s excited to debut a grilled peanut butter, banana and honey one. The café still offers brewed teas, bubble teas and both American- and Vietnamese-style coffees, but Piotrowski has added milkshakes to the mix. They come in classic coffee, chocolate and strawberry — but also in avocado and coconut, and Piotrowski says she’s been shocked by the popularity of the more exotic flavors. You can get them in healthier smoothies, too.
This Sunday, Piotrowski will debut a breakfast menu to be served only on the day of rest — for now. Expect special a.m. panini and homemade Belgian waffles topped with Vermont maple syrup, chocolate chips or Gummi bears.
Formerly a Vietnamese takeout and grocery, Phuong’s Kitchen  on North Avenue, owned by Phuong Lam, has recently abandoned cha gio and pho in favor of good ol’ American BBQ. Tables have replaced the shelving that used to hold Asian groceries.
New chef William “Wild Bill” Workman is grilling up ribs, barbecue chicken and burgers. Cook Jay Stevens calls those items — plus the baked beans — “the best in town.” There are also chicken tenders, Santa Fe pork chops and lots of desserts, including Boston cream pie.