When Duong Morris learns I’m writing a story about her restaurant, Sprouts, she asks me to do something no other restaurant owner (or owner of any kind) has requested in my 13-year journalism career: keep my praise of her business to a minimum.
“I would love to stay very humble,” Morris says, adding that she doesn’t want any “best of” labels. “I don’t think I deserve that.”
She does, however, take great pride in offering healthy Vietnamese comfort food with plenty of gluten-free and vegan options, and asks that I focus on letting people know about that aspect of her business.
Sorry, Duong, but I’m having trouble with the non-praising part of this request.
Sprouts, which opened three years ago, is one of my favorite spots to pick up Vietnamese food. An unassuming restaurant tucked into the downtown Bethel Village Square plaza, Sprouts surprises you with the quality of its offerings. The banh mi sandwiches are among the best I’ve had in the state. They are served on a delicious French baguette delivered fresh daily from a New Jersey bakery and feature a housemade sauce with a pineapple juice and tomato paste base (it is far better than it might sound). You can order pork, chicken, tofu or beef banh mi, and at $5-$5.50 for a half, or $8-$8.50 for a whole (big enough to feed two people), they are a bargain.
The pho is made from an overnight broth of chicken, beef or vegetable, depending on what you order. Unlike pho offered at many other places, you won’t find fish sauce as a flavoring agent in this pho because that has gluten in it. “That’s why the flavor is not very authentic, but I focus on health,” Morris says.
Authentic or not, the flavor of the pho is excellent, and the spot is well worth checking out for pho lovers, especially vegan or gluten-free ones. Beyond pho and banh mi, the restaurant offers a variety of salads, rolls, cold noodle dishes and non-pho soups. There is no bar, but there is Vietnamese coffee and Thai iced tea.
A native of Vietnam, Morris attended culinary school before moving to Connecticut about 13 years ago. She went to nursing school in the U.S. but quickly decided the profession wasn’t for her. Knowing she still wanted to help people, Morris decided to return to her first love. This is fitting because, as she says, “Cooking is taking care of people through their stomach.”