(First published in the July 11, 2019 issue of City Pages)
Newch’s Banh Mi sandwich restaurant to reopen in the former Wanda’s Chapter Two building on Merrill Avenue
New Chee Lor at Newch’s Banh Mi in 2016. His new location will be more of a full restaurant, including a bar
Three years ago when New Chee Lor opened the Banh Mi sandwich shop on Fulton Street in Wausau’s east side, it was one of the only places in town to find a Vietnamese sandwich. It seemed like the perfect location — right next to an Asian food market, across from the Mexican restaurant Tres Hermanos, and a short distance of downtown.
But Lor closed the restaurant about a year later, in 2017. He had started a food truck business—a trailer that allows him to set up at events and do small catering jobs—and planned to move his sandwich shop to a location at Rosecrans Street. That deal fell through, and the prospect of perpetual new locations convinced Lor that the food truck business would be enough for a while.
In September, Lor will once again open a full restaurant. Lor has purchased the former Wanda’s Chapter Two building at 1810 Merrill Ave., on Wausau’s north side. The deal was finalized last Friday—the same day that Chapter Two closed.
With more space, and a bar, Newch’s Banh Mi is stepping up his operation. “The former restaurant was more of a sandwich shop,” says Lor, a D.C. Everest graduate. “This one is more like a waiter/waitress, sit down restaurant.” He’ll run the restaurant with his mother, Mai Yang Lor.
Besides those delicious Vietnamese sandwiches, a full Asian fusion menu will be on order, with his signature stir-fried dishes and homemade noodles. Lor plans to use local ingredients, with veggies sourced from local farmers. And the bar will be put to use with Asian-inspired drinks alongside more traditional cocktails.
The restaurant will also serve as a home base for his food truck business, allowing Lor to take on bigger and more catering jobs. Right now he rents commercial kitchens when he needs more food prep space.
A good number of Vietnamese restaurants are popping up. Pho Zone opened in Wausau Center mall last month, and Lemongrass is slated to open this fall in the former J Gumbo’s space on Third Street. Lor is pleased to see the influx of Asian cuisine in Wausau, and says his restaurant should fit right in because it will offer something a little different.
Plus, the area near North Central Technical College where Lor’s restaurant will be located is poised for growth, Lor says. With new housing and the MCDEVCO center, there should be plenty of customers nearby and even more in the future. “With all the new development in that that area, they need more cool stuff, more restaurants,” Lor says.
Lor came up in the food service industry working for his aunt’s restaurants in the Milwaukee area. He ran the restaurant for two years prior to opening Newch’s Banh Mi in 2016.