Earlier this year, chef Young Cho was on track to open his new restaurant in White Center, Phorale Way, the extension of his hugely popular Asian Tex-Mex truck, Phorale, by the spring. But when the COVID-19 pandemic scuttled those plans, Cho needed to regroup.
With unexpected construction expenses piling up, and no breaks from his landlord in rent, Cho faced a daunting reality. Since the restaurant still hadn’t opened yet, he didn’t qualify for any grants, and he couldn’t run the food truck to make cash, because the kitchen wasn’t ready to be approved as a commissary.
“To be honest I’ve had a few thoughts over the past few months about moving on,” Cho tells Eater Seattle. “But decided against it.”
To move forward during a period of uncertainty, and get Phorale Way ready to open this summer, Cho’s vision has shifted.
Originally conceived as a fast-casual restaurant, serving up items such as sandwiches, pho, and fries, Cho is now developing Phorale Way with much of the same food, but adding a farm-to-table philosophy. He’s partnered with a South Seattle-based group called the Preservation Meat Collective, which aims to connect restaurants with local farmers and ranchers, with an emphasis on single-source meats.
“This thought of change came to me when I saw the increasing prices of commodity meats when the pandemic started, seeing these [rising] prices and empty shelves, while major meat farms were killing off their livestock,” Cho says. “I thought to myself, ‘We need a better path to help the world in eliminating food waste and valuing what we have now.’”
On July 4, Cho is planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign to help get some of the more ambitious eco-friendly projects for the restaurant off the ground (and finish existing ones). He also hopes to open the restaurant officially by the end of the month, for takeout at least, and possibly some limited seating.
Part of the money from the crowdfunding will go to turning Phorale Way’s parking lot into an urban garden that will supply 90 percent of the produce and herbs that the restaurant needs, with the rest coming from local farms.
As for the menu, that won’t change a whole lot from the original plans, with many items from the truck available, as well as 10-12 additional dishes and appetizers. Diners can expect lemongrass pork chops with kimchi fried rice and egg, chicken guisado, banh mi, and a daily batch of pho, as well as the popular curly “siesta” fries smothered in habañero queso, cilantro aioli, and grilled spicy pork or marinated beef. But no chicken wings. “It’s not sustainable to the rancher,” says Cho.
- Popular Asian Tex-Mex Food Truck Phorale Plans New White Center Restaurant [ESEA]
- Phorale [Official]
- The Preservation Meat Collective [Official]