In 2013, Eric Joh, who was friends with the founders of the No Thai noodle chain, came up with a suggestion. How about a restaurant that specialized in the Vietnamese sandwiches called banh mi?
The idea led to Belly Deli. Taking over the small South University storefront where No Thai got its start, its menu expanded to include noodle dishes and buns, as well as three types of banh mi served on bread made for it by Zingerman’s Bakehouse.
The spot could seat about twenty customers, many of them U-M students, and did a brisk business in carryout orders. It experimented with tacos and offered taro chips and bokum balls, fried snacks made from pork mixed with kimchee.
But when the pandemic struck in 2020, Belly Deli closed, then reopened with a more limited menu. Last year, it stopped posting to social media, and in February, a reader of a2view, the Observer’s e-newsletter, asked if we could find out what had happened.
While its website remained live, its phone rang unanswered. A drive down South U found this message written on a paper bag taped to the door: “Sorry, we are permanently closed.”