Tell us a little about yourself and where you’re from
My name is Huy Nguyen, born in the west coast, raised in Houston, Tx and now residing in the DMV. Inspired by anything and everything edible. Literally… I eat everything. Other than being known for the hot and humid weather, Houston Texas has the best Vietnamese food. Some may argue Cali does, but that’s up for debate. I am inspired by the food I grew up with. It wasn’t until in my late 20’s that I became interested in cooking and started creating my own dishes. I wanted to attend culinary school before the food truck, but decided to just jump right into it. I believe that if you have a strong passion for food, and have a relentless will to learn, you can create food people will enjoy.
Being from Houston, how different is the food truck scene here in DC?
Originally, before the food truck scene kicked off, there were a lot of stationary Mexican food trucks that served the real deal breakfast tacos to your full fled Mexican dinner. The streets were saturated by these trucks similar to how DC is saturated with Halal food trucks. But now, seeing how creative some of these trucks are, I’d say the scene is completely different than DC. How the fusion of different cultures mixes in Houston’s diverse city so seamlessly, it’s kind of amazing. From gooey cheesey kimchi fries, Korean style kimchi Philly cheese steaks, shaking beef banh mi’s, Korean infused Japanese maki’s or handrolls, Asian style shrimp and grits with pork belly, fried chicken waffle sandwiches drizzeles with spicy mayo – need I say more? Houston also has a great food truck night life, where trucks sit either in front of bars or congregate in parking lots and serve until the wee hours of the morning. DC however only lets trucks serve until 1:00 a.m. Big womp.
How did you wind up in the food business?
I was laid off from a government contraction job. My sister, Kim and I, always had a passion for food. Together, we have 15+ years of experience in the food industry. I personally had experience running my aunt’s Vietnamese restaurant, Vietopia, in Harrisonburg, VA. We wanted to create something new and different from what was currently available in the DC metro area.
What was the toughest part about starting your business?
Everything! The best thing is being your own boss but at the end of the day, you have to push yourself everyday to your limit, so your business can be successful. Sure I could take a day off whenever I want, but money doesn’t grow on its own.
What has surprised you the most about running a food truck?
How did you conceptualize your menu?
So what’s next for you and PhoWheels?
PhoWheels will be opening dinners in Clarendon on Thursday and Friday nights from 6-8pm. Follow us on Twitter (PhoWheels), Facebook (PhoWheels) & Instagram (PhoWheelsDC) for location updates. Our next events include DiverseCity Alexandria (9/14), H Street festival (9/21) and Taste of DC (10/12 – 10/13). Some upcoming specials include the half smoke, deep fried sous vide poached eggs for banh mi and the savory doughnut banh mi, a collaboration between Astro Doughnuts and PhoWheels. Stay tuned for updates. Long term wise, PhoWheels would like to open a restaurant.
What should newcomers try?
Besides Pho, new comers should try the roti canai tacos since it’s unique to our truck. Our banh mi on a custom-made sub shaped croissant with truffle aioli is also a big favorite. Don’t forget to add a fried egg! Our pork belly banh mi and tacos sells out quickly. We also have specials like bo kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew) served with roti canai and gourmet items like duck breast tacos. Make sure to follow PhoWheels for location updates! Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PhoWheels Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/PhoWheels Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/phowheelsdc