From pho to coffee, Yenvy Pham has got it covered. The co-owner of Little Saigon’s popular Pho Bac Sup Shop is opening a new cafe in the neighborhood called Hello Em, specializing in Vietnamese roasts and snacks. It will be located inside the Friends of Little Saigon Creative space, part of a local nonprofit dedicated to preserving the cultural and economic vitality of the neighborhood (Pham has been involved with the organization for years). If all goes according to plan, the doors will open sometime in January.
Hello Em has its own roastery, with beans imported directly from Vietnamese farmers. While the full menu is still in flux, customers can expect cá phê sữa đá (iced coffee with condensed milk) and Pham says she is playing with a lighter version of cá phê trung (an egg cream Vietnamese coffee), and seeing if she can incorporate banana leaves into a drink. There will be coffee brewed via the phin method eventually (a combination between a pour over and a French press), but all drinks will be pulled espresso to start, which Pham says really “aerates and elevates” the cá phê sữa đá.
Food-wise, Hello Em will be all about what Pham calls the “banh mi-nini” (a pressed banh mi). She’s planning a breakfast sandwich version, with fried shallots, pork charcuterie, lemongrass sauce, and pate made onsite, along with a “hot dog” variation, with Laughing Cow cheese. Among some of the sweeter items will be a Chinese doughnut, salted egg red bean buns, pork floss bread, durian crepe cakes, and fresh fruit cakes rolls.
When it opens, Hello Em will join a rapidly growing Vietnamese coffee shop scene in Seattle, which includes Columbia City’s Coffeeholic House, the U District’s Sip House, and the International District’s Phin. All three made their debuts in 2020, despite the challenges during the pandemic. While dining rooms are still closed until at least January 11, the cafes have done their best to adjust to the takeout world, and Hello Em aims to do the same, emphasizing to-go offerings until visitors to the Friends of Little Saigon building can enjoy the full art and exhibition experience again.
“I am going to keep things affordable just like Pho Bac, and the goal is to get Little Saigon on the map,” says Pham, who is running the operation with business partner Nghia Bui (a childhood friend with strong ties to coffee farmers in Buon Ma Thuot). “I love my neighborhood and want other ethnic entrepreneurs to come do business here. Get this place popping. The possibilities are endless.”