Saigon Hustle, a brand new fast-casual Vietnamese food concept, debuted earlier this week out of Blodgett Food Hall’s cloud kitchen space in the Third Ward. The brainchild of 39-year-old Houston native Cassie Ghaffar, the menu pays tribute to her Vietnamese heritage, with a decidedly contemporary spin.
“Saigon Hustle is about good and healthy food that just brings us back to our roots,” says Ghaffar. “But it’s really the story about how my mom’s whole family left Vietnam in 1975.”
A second-generation Vietnamese-American, Ghaffar’s mother was one of six sisters whose family fled Vietnam with just the clothes on their backs and some gold sewn into their pants. “The ‘hustle’ is a tribute to my 85-year-old grandmother,” says Ghaffar. “She had to hustle our family out [of Vietnam] quick enough so we could get here.”
The opening menu, developed in with the help of chef Omar Pereney of food consulting firm A La Carte Consulting Group, is made up of appetizers, banh mi sandwiches, rolls, vermicelli noodles, rice, dessert, and drinks, made with locally sourced ingredients. For the banh mi, noodles, and rice, customers will able to choose from six proteins— chargrilled barbecue pork, chargrilled barbecue ribeye, honey soy barbecue chicken, honey glazed lemongrass salmon, and honey glazed lemongrass crispy tofu — with the option to customize toppings and sides.
Ghaffar’s signature items are her rolls: The Saigon Crepe Roll, a banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe) served wrapped in rice paper; and the honey glazed lemongrass salmon, made of her own special-recipe salmon baked and broiled in a honey lemongrass glaze.
Also unique to Saigon Hustle is a robust coffee program called the “Ca Phe Sua Bar,” offering several options for Vietnamese iced coffee: Nitro Cold Brew made from nitro-charged Katz Jumping Mouse Cold Brew; Saigon Cinnamon Ca Phe Sua Da; and Skinny Ca Phe Sua Da made with coconut milk and cane sugar.
Prior to launching the cloud kitchen, Ghaffar had plans to open a brick and mortar drive-through at 3323 Ella Blvd in Garden Oaks. The site is still under development due to project delays related to COVID-19, and is now on track to open in the first quarter of 2021.
In the meantime, Saigon Hustle is open Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Orders can be placed online for pickup at the Blodgett Food Hall, or via the various food apps (Grubhub, UberEats, DoorDash) for delivery to Midtown, Downtown, Med Center, part of West U, Montrose, and University of Houston.