Minh Pham opened Urban Chops on October 27th, 2018. Pham is not only the owner but also the head chef. “I wanted to connect with people through food because that’s what I’m good at,” explained Pham. “The thought that I can excite or make someone’s day a little better through food makes me happy. My vision was to create a menu that’s versatile that all can enjoy.”
Opening Urban Chops in Auburn was an easy choice for Pham, who spent the first nine years of his life here. “I came back to Auburn and attended Auburn Riverside during my freshman year of high school. Shortly after, I settled in Pullman, where my parents opened their restaurant, Azia Restaurant,” said Pham.
Urban Chops isn’t just a random name thrown together by Pham. Although the urban part of the name is straightforward, the chops may be unexpected. He explained that ‘chops’ equates to ‘skills.’
Pham acquired his culinary chops by first working in his parents’ restaurant as a teenager. “After [I graduated] high school, I moved back to the Seattle area and attended Seattle Culinary Academy,” said Pham. “After culinary school, I went to Vietnam for a summer trip to get a better understanding of Vietnamese street food. When I got back, I went back to my parents’ restaurant and used their kitchen as a food lab.”
Pham asserts that he is “mostly self-taught. I read a lot of cookbooks and found inspiration through other chefs that fuse Asian cuisine with other cultural ingredients.”
What to Expect at Urban Chops
Defining his restaurant in three terms, Pham described Urban Chops as “Bold flavors, friendly atmosphere, and fast service.” To him, hospitality is “treating customers as if they are guests in my own home with love and care. We do everything that we can to accommodate our customers. We listen and make necessary adjustments as needed.”
Sometimes this means that Pham comes out from the kitchen to explain dishes to customers or make recommendations. For someone who has never had Vietnamese cuisine before, he describes it as “a complex balance of ingredients with bold flavors similar to Thai food. It’s tongue tantalizingly delicious and far from bland.”
Being a fusion restaurant, Urban Chops allows diners to ease into Vietnamese flavors. If you’re in the mood for a more American dish, Pham recommends the popular crunchy chicken and bacon sandwich, or the honey glazed bacon burger. For those wanting more Vietnamese flavors, Pham recommends the coconut curry shrimp and pork sandwich, urban pork, or the Chinese BBQ chicken sandwich.
Although some may want to see a more expanded menu, there is a reason. Pham limits the menu to keep everything simple, and most importantly, fresh! He sources ingredients locally to ensure quality and freshness.
No matter the menu option selected; the entree portions are sizeable. This makes them more filling and allows the customers to enjoy the delicious food for longer.
Always Creating Something New
Pham’s driving goal to deliver a unique culinary experience for his customers is clear. “I set myself apart from other Asian or Vietnamese restaurants by using modern cooking techniques and adding ingredients that one would not find in a typical Vietnamese restaurant. My mission was to create menu items one can’t find anywhere else. Our menu isn’t a set menu. We change and include items we feel are mind-blowingly delicious. Expect plenty more delicious sandwich combinations down the road. I am currently working on a caramelized ginger pork belly confit sandwich.”
If you haven’t stopped in to try one of Auburn’s newest additions, it’s time you did. If you have been to Urban Chops, don’t think once was enough. Pham’s culinary creativity doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Hours: Monday: Closed
Tuesday: 11 AM-8 PM
Wednesday: 11 AM-8 PM
Thursday: 11 AM-8 PM
Friday: 11 AM-8 PM
Saturday: 11 AM-8PM
Sunday: 11 AM-7 PM
Secret menu items? No