Phorale's community service set-up for South Park's youth epitomizes the duo’s ultimate goal for their restaurant.

By Nina Huang
November 11, 2016

A fusion restaurant called Phorale, owned by Jimmy Bui and Young Cho who are Vietnamese and Korean respectively, is making a name for itself as more than just the new restaurant tucked inside a convenience store in South Park. The co-owners have found a way to contribute to the community’s youth too.

The restaurant, which opened about six months ago, serves a fusion of Korean-Vietnamese-Mexican cuisine. It can seat about 20 people, including bar seats that give customers an opportunity to chat with Bui and Cho as they cook.

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Sucio wings

One of their most popular items is the El Fuego sandwich which has a spicy Korean pork filling and pickled vegetables on a Mexican baguette called bolillo. The recipe was Cho’s grandmother’s. They have an interesting take on pho called fusion pho that is made up of enoki mushrooms, bulgogi beef, sous vide egg, and a side of chilis in a Japanese miso-based broth. And off-the-menu, but popular on social media, is their Sucio wings that have a hint of spice and influence from Korean sauce Gochujang that are finger-licking good.

Most items on the menu are less than $10 which is a decent price point for the quality of their food. As they continue to fine-tune their menu, they hope to include more cuisines into the mix in the future. They even take custom orders from time to time—Cho said they made paella for 25 people once even though they’ve never made it before and personally caught the squid needed for the squid ink.

While Phorale does not serve alcohol, customers can still enjoy any beverage of choice since the convenience store sells everything from Mexican Coca Cola to Thai coconut water.

But beyond their focus on food, Bui and Cho have made it a priority to develop relationships with youth in the community as both their role models and friends. The goal is to instill a good work ethic for the neighborhood youth.

Phorale is across from the South Park Community Center. According to Cho, Cherryl Jackson-Williams, a recreation specialist from the community center, helped set up an after school program for the kids that regularly hung around the convenience store.

Here’s how it works:

The program is an employment readiness program that all youth can engage in to receive $599 stipends as part of Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Youth Career Training Program. The components of this include life skills training, technical training—such as food safety training and food preparation basics—and employment readiness, which in this case is the Phorale Service Learning Project.

The kids who have food handler’s permits work on a variety of tasks in the kitchen like washing the dishes, cleaning, and preparing meals.

Jackson-Williams said that there are currently five youths that are signed up for YCTP with five additional youths currently in the Phorale Service Learning Project who do not commit to all of the components for a stipend. The program can last three to six months depending on the participants’ schedules.

The community service set-up epitomizes the duo’s ultimate goal for their restaurant.

“We’re not here to be rich and we’re not expecting to make a few thousand dollars a day. We are serving the neighborhood first,” Cho said.

And their hard work keeps paying off.

A few weeks ago, the chefs participated in Sam Choy’s Poke Festival, where they were invited to showcase their food. Award-winning chef John Howie was also in attendance and tried the El Fuego sandwich.

At first, Bui and Cho thought Howie didn’t care for the sandwich, but a few minutes later, Howie came back and told them that he wanted 120 sandwiches for his staff luncheon.

It was one of the greatest moments for Bui and Cho.

“We come from the poorest neighborhoods and for someone like John Howie who makes millions to invite little guy like me and Jimmy to cater for his entire staff was truly a blessing,” Cho said.

For a taste of Phorale’s innovative and memorable dishes, visit 11 am—6 pm on Mon—Wed, and 11 am—9 pm on Thu—Sat at 8909 14th Ave S. Phorale is closed on Sun.