ICYMI: due to a small scheduling error, the original location of our team lunch fell through, and we ended up at Poke-Chan on St. Claude. It must have been meant to be because we had a great time! Even our Brand Manager, who isn't very fond of raw fish, loved the Honey Garlic Bowl and Jasmine Tea.
Since we had such a great time, we decided to interview the owner(s) about their space and found out that there is a fierce team behind this cool new spot on St. Claude. Here was what one partner, Lien Nguyen had to say about life at Poke-Chan.
MHS: What inspired you to start your own business?
LN: Growing up, most of us had worked in the restaurant industry (Lien, Loan, and Susan are actually sisters that grew up working in their family restaurant), and we always wanted to open a restaurant – possibly Vietnamese to honor our culture. But we ate sushi super frequently, so we kept thinking about different ways to have sushi. We thought about maybe deconstructed sushi and found out it was already a thing – Poke! We then took time to travel to Hawaii and California to experience different types of Poke
MHS: What were y'all doing before opening Poke-Chan?
LN: Well, Loan, Susan, and Dalena were working back-of-house (BOH) at N7 together. I am actually a licensed Nurse Practitioner by trade.
MHS: What is your favorite snack?
LN: It feels so silly to say this out loud, but my favorite snack is Avocado toast. I'll add an egg – maybe fresh tuna or tomatoes, but I always like to have a little extra something on my avocado toast.
MHS: What's your favorite menu item?
LN: My favorite menu item is actually one of our sauces – the Tamarind Scallion sauce. It's actually a favorite for our customers too! when we made the menu for Poke-Chan, we actually made it with our own palette of flavors, and some things are even inspired by traditional Vietnamese cuisine. So items like the Tamarind Sauce are all authentic to us and what we personally love to eat, and whenever we get reviews or feedback from customers about how much they love specific bowls or items, it just feels really good. It'll make my day.
MHS: What's the best part of owning your business?
LN: The best thing about owning a business is getting to make sure that everything that matters most to us is taken care of to the best of our ability. Our 3 main values are great customer service, great food, and consistency. I really don't like when I get excited about a new place I tried and go back just to be disappointed. Getting to take the time and knowing all of us partners are doing everything to make sure everyone is fulfilling those values is amazing.
MHS: Do you have any new items you're working on for Poke-Chan?
LN: We're four women that all love food, have experience in food, and love to eat, so we're always experimenting with new dishes. Many of them make it to being our specials of the day at the restaurant, so be on the lookout and visit often to try an experimental dish or two!
MHS: What is the most important thing about being a woman in your business or do you have any advice for entrepreneurial woman out there?
LN: Being one of six sisters raised by a single mom, I am a real woman's woman, so being extremely supportive of all the women in my life in work or family is really important. When we started construction on Poke-Chan, we actually noticed many construction firms were just giving us random prices, thinking we didn't know any better. We started to reach out, we started to research and really do our due diligence to ensure that we were being taken seriously as business owners. I think that's super important as a female leader and entrepreneur is doing everything possible to ensure you're being treated fairly in your industry – asking questions when you have them, doing research, and ensuring that you're on the same playing field as everyone else.