Cafe TH (Thiem Hung)
2108 Pease St.
Houston, TX 77003
Minh, the owner of Cafe TH is awesome. He’s just an awesome person. There’s no better way to describe him. He’s always about to give you a hug, or he just gave you a hug a minute ago. He’s always smiling and is genuinely interested in how you’ve been doing. If you don’t believe me, you can read about it here. Furthermore, he’s not bad to look at. If he were single and if my sister didn’t live two thousand miles away, I would totally set them up. Even memaw #1 (my dear grandma of a coworker) said that he’s hot.
Image courtesy of Houston Press (incidentally, that link leads to an excellent interview with Minh).
Aaron and I often go to Cafe TH for their “After Dark” prix fixe menu, which is every Thursday and Friday. It’s a great three-course meal for only $25 with free BYOB. You simply can’t beat it. Aaron is sick today and craved pho, so off we went to see Minh.
Aaron got the bonh bot chien, a vietnamese savory pancake/omelette:
He ate: Their bonh bot chien (fried egg pancake) didn’t taste as good to me as the last time I had it (I ordered one, ate it, loved it so much and ordered a second one—these pancakes are not small!) but I realized it’s because I’m sick, and also last time I got it “trey style” which means it comes with grilled chicken and pork on top.
She ate: I don’t know what Aaron’s talking about regarding the bonh bot chien. It tasted just as good as last time. I actually prefer it without the meat on top, as you can really taste the coconut milk in the egg batter without getting distracted by the meat. I love the crispy edges of the pancake, the gooey texture in the middle is just perfect, and the preserved turnips has a taro texture, which I love.
Aaron also got the beef pho, which comes with flank steak, beef brisket, and beef meatballs:
He ate: The pho is pretty solid. It tastes fresh, which is nice. Minh knows every one who comes in his store, at all times, which is kind of a delight and at the same time unnerving to watch.
She ate: My apologies for forgetting to take pictures until midway through the meal. I got a small bowl of vegan pho without noodles (not pictured, already ate) and a small whole wheat banh mi with vegetables and pork meatballs. I’ve been really into meatballs lately, I don’t know why.
I had a small soup, which is basically a rice-bowl sized serving of any of their soups without noodles. I picked the vegan pho, which without noodles is just vegetable broth with snap peas, bok choy, onions, and green onions. It was a bit sweet for my taste but still flavorful and great on a cold day like today. For $1.39, it’s a nice add-on to your sandwich.
My banh mi was very lightly mayo’d, with plenty of fresh carrots and cucumbers. There were only a few meatballs, which, yay for health (it satisfied my craving for meatballs without all the guilt) but I wish the sandwich was more substantial. However, it is a terrific deal for $2.31. Next time I might stick with grilled chicken or tofu and ask for double the filling, which will cost me all of 92 cents.
Cafe TH is the only Vietnamese restaurant I know of in Houston that offers whole wheat baguettes for their banh mi’s. I was very excited because I LOVE banh mi’s, but always feel super guilty eating the heavily buttered, carb-loaded baguette sandwiches. The baguette was ok. I’ve had better wheat baguettes. This one was a bit too crusty yet crumbly at the same time, although after I broke off the edges of the baguette, the inside was warm and soft. Overall, it’s a nice healthy alternative when I crave banh mi’s but don’t crave the calories.
Minh offers spaghetti squash in place of pho for any of his vermicelli bowls. Last time I tried the grilled chicken vermicelli bowl with spaghetti squash and it was great! The dish retained all the flavors without the refined carbs. I’m not sure if he offers the substitution all the time or if it was a special.
In spite of all that health talk, I would love to add bacon to my banh mi one of these days. I’m intrigued by the Heart Throb banh mi, which is a double portion of pork/chicken, two fried eggs, and double bacon. Mind. Blown.
tl; dr: Go to Cafe TH. It is an experience. You might not get the best food but you will make a new friend with the added bonus of healthy options.