Ba’s Vietnamese Comfort Food, which opened about two months ago in downtown Albany, is something of a love note to family.
For starters, Ba’s translates to “Dad’s.”
Karen Carey, who owns the business with her husband, Seth Carey, said she learned to cook from her father, Tony Pham. He taught her all her grandmother’s recipes.
“Cooking is always so happy, so family-orientated for me,” Carey said.
In the 1970s, Pham stole a boat to flee war-torn Vietnam and eventually settled in the United States. Pham thought he’d never see his parents in the communist country again.
The informal cooking lessons were a way to connect his daughter with family far away.
Carey said that her restaurant features the same dishes she ate growing up.
“We’re bringing our kitchen to you. We’re serving literally what we eat at home,” she added.
Ba’s Vietnamese Comfort Food features rice dishes, vermicelli salads and pho, a type of noodle soup. There also are appetizers, specialty iced and hot teas, wine, sake and more.
So far, the most popular items have been the combination noodle salad, beef stew, ginger chicken and beef pho.
The menu is relatively pared down compared to many other Asian restaurants in the area.
The Careys said that they plan to add more items, including French-inspired baked goods and desserts, but they’ll continue to specialize in the food of Vietnam. And they said they’ll use healthy and fresh ingredients, and no MSG.
Seth Carey, who grew up in Adair Village, said things have been going well for the restaurant since it opened.
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“We were also looking at spots in Corvallis, but this one fit. It just felt right,” Seth Carey said.
Though the Careys are both Oregon State University graduates, they actually met in South Korea while on internships. And that’s similar to Karen Carey’s parents. Both fled Vietnam, but they met in America.
The Careys married about a year-and-a-half ago, and it’s easy for them to work together, Seth Carey said. “We get along very well. That’s very helpful in this environment,” he said.
The environment inside Ba’s includes other touches to make it seem like half a world away. Lights were added to the brick wall to make it seem like an alley — Vietnamese food is street food, after all, Karen Carey said.
A mint teal color popular in Vietnam also is featured in the décor.
The decorations feature plenty of photographs of Karen Carey’s family, as well a mural of her grandparents and a painting of the gate to her grandfather’s farm back in Vietnam.
“This is like the closest thing to Vietnam for us. When I’m in here I feel like I’m in a different place. We hope that’s what other people feel,” Karen Carey said.
Karen Carey said her parents always talked about opening up a restaurant, but with the language barrier and living in a new culture, they didn’t know how to accomplish their dream. In a way, she’s accomplished that for them.
“They’re so proud of me,” she said.
Karen Carey’s parents were finally able to correspond with their relatives in Vietnam starting in the mid-1990s, and she was eventually able to travel and visit with her grandmother.
“We cooked together. It’s just what you do,” she said.
Ba’s Vietnamese Comfort Food, 117 First Ave. NE Suite 104 in Albany, is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday.
The business offers “do-right” Tuesdays, where 10 percent of sales are given to local philanthropies. A different charity is picked each month.
For more information, call 541-791-7299 or go to www.basvietnamesecomfortfood.com or the business’ social media pages.
Kyle Odegard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.