EaDo's newest Vietnamese spot, Café Shoppe, opened on August 1. It's just as bright and cheery as its owner and chef Kim Ly. With colorful walls and a '70s soundtrack, Ly's adorable restaurant is like a banh mi boutique.
EOW: Tell me how you got into the restaurant business.
KL: I started out just staying at home, having friends over, eating, cooking. They all liked my food and said, "Kim why don't you try to cook?" I like to cook, and I eat out a lot, see what's outside. I see what a lot of people like, and I try to make it into a little bit different: my style.
EOW: Where did you cook before this?
KL: My parents have a shopping mall [Kim Hung]. Somebody who was there before used to have sandwiches, and they closed out a year before. I decided to open a little sandwich shop because my parents told me people kept asking about this banh mi, these sandwiches. There's nothing in downtown at the time, so I said, "Okay, let me try to open one." My parents also have a traditional Chinese lunch where they cook roasted duck, barbecued pork, in the Chinese tradition. So I said, "Okay, we'll combine together and make banh mi and Chinese food." So I opened up there, and a lot of people liked it. They liked the way I had my food marinating, very tasty.
So I decided I'm going to go ahead and open outside. In there, it was kind of like in a food court area. Nowadays, people just don't have that food court area anymore...people like to sit outside, kind of like a hangout. I decided I wanted to open something like that. Most of my clientele are a lot of Americans. I want to make it convenient, because everything has moved back out to Southwest. No Chinese or Asian food down here.
EOW: What makes your food different?
KL: I cook it healthy. We watch what we eat today a lot, so trying to keep in shape, healthy, I decided to make everything very organic. Less grease, less fried, more grilled.
EOW: How would you describe your menu? Is it all Vietnamese food?
KL: Most of it is Vietnamese style. Vietnamese sandwiches, also the Vietnamese dishes like the vermicelli bowl and steamed rice with all the grilled meats.
EOW: How long have you lived in Houston?
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KL: Thirty-two years. I came here in 1979 from Vietnam. I stayed here in Houston all my life. It's a very interesting story about how I got here...
Interesting? A huge understatement. Check back tomorrow for Ly's tale of Thai pirates that led her all the way to Café Shoppe.