The pandemic has brought on hardships among business owners throughout the Valley. While some were crushed by the challenges, others were born from them.
In a little nook on the frontage road in Weslaco now stands a space created out of pure demand for homemade Vietnamese by pho fanatics all over the Valley. Owned and operated by the Le family, Le Pho House is a Vietnamese restaurant whose main focus is bringing some of that delicious goodness to the Rio Grande Valley.
“Our focus is on serving delicious quality homemade Vietnamese food with great hospitality,” said Pam Le, eldest of the Le clan. “I’ve traveled a lot and may be biased, but mom’s pho is my favorite. Everywhere I go, I always talk about my mom’s pho. It’s so delicious.”
Pho is a Vietnamese noodle dish made up of a light, herbal broth and rice noodles — something that is near and dear to owner and cook Hoa Le’s heart. Combine that love for pho and serving others with a family full of ambition and humility and you have yourself a restaurant with a menu full of flavor and delight.
Le Pho House offers pho with chicken, beef, seafood, or a vegetarian option as well as a spicier, heartier version of pho called bun bo hue. In addition to pho, Le Pho House also offers Vietnamese iced coffee and savory side dishes including fried rice, egg rolls, and spring rolls.
“Our menu is very simple because we focus on quality rather than quantity,” Pam said. “Beef pho and bun bo hue are our most popular soups, and Mom’s famous fried rice is a must try!”
Their spring rolls are filled with rice noodles, cilantro, cucumbers, pork, shrimp, and lettuce, wrapped with rice paper, and served with Hoa’s special peanut sauce. The egg rolls are made up of pork, shrimp, taro, jicama, mushroom, carrot, garlic, and a special blend of seasoning and spices in a crispy fried wrapper served with lettuce and cucumber — and a side of chili fish sauce.
“I’m really happy to share [my food] with all the people,” Hoa said. “Everybody loves it and I’m just happy. I don’t mind cooking all night — I just love it.”
Prior to the pandemic, the Le family was going on about their daily lives.
Hoa, a single mom of four, was working long hours at a nail salon as she had been for the past three decades. Her kids were living in separate corners of the country, working hard in their careers and personal projects.
Pam says the pandemic brought them closer together, as this was the first time in years they were all under the same roof again.
She had been living and working in Dallas for the past few years, brother Randy Le was living in Hawaii where he was originally stationed for the Army, and sisters Amber and Amy Le were in Weslaco, taking a semester off college to pursue personal projects.
“I was very career-driven and focused on my work, so I traveled a lot and was rarely ever home,” Pam said. “Mom was always at work. We would only be together as a family during holidays and occasionally plan trips to go to Hawaii to spend time with Randy.”
Mid-March 2020 came around, everything suddenly came to a halt, and the coronavirus was threatening the livelihood of those in our region and beyond. Two weeks later, businesses began closing their doors because of the state-mandated lockdown. Families were urged to spend time together in close quarters — the Le family among them.
Spending so much time at home due to stay-at-home orders, they did a lot of brainstorming and vision painting of what kind of life they would like to live.
“We were all at a low point since we had no income coming in and overloaded on bills that needed to be paid,” Pam said. “One night while we were all eating pho, we had an idea of selling mom’s food to collect enough funds to at least pay our bills.
“We decided to just focus on what we’re good at, work together as a family, and make this dream of hers come true.”
Hoa is no stranger to a strong work ethic and is happy to have passed these values along to her children. Her dream of owning a restaurant is now a reality and she is doing what she loves most — cooking while her kids step in to help with the rest of the business.
“I make the food. Whatever else is needed, we work together as a family to do it,” she said. “It makes me so happy to cook and have the customers enjoy the food.”
Where they are now compared to the family’s humble beginnings are like night and day. Pam said they started making pho out of their home April 2020, and eventually the demand for the dish was larger than what they could provide out of their home kitchen. They knew they had to expand.
“Cooking from home, we were very limited to what we could do with the small kitchen space we have,” Pam said. “Our garage became a storage for supplies as well as our living room and dining room.
Eventually, they found a physical location to start doing curbside from early August. This helped cut back on the time spent bagging orders, loading the car, and awaiting their customers to arrive at designated pick-up locations.
From Sept. 23, to Dec. 2, 2020, they focused solely on curbside orders from their newfound space — and held their ribbon-cutting ceremony the first week of December 2020.
Since then, Le Pho House has expanded beyond curbside services to also offer a dine-in option, always following CDC guidelines and orders from Hidalgo County for overall safety.
The restaurant has grown a significant amount in a short timeframe.
“Family is everything,” Pam said. “Being together, working together, growing a business together has its challenging moments, but it’s ultimately been very rewarding.”
While 2020 was truly a challenging year, the Le family is grateful for the support and love they’ve received as well as the opportunity to be able to serve the community.
“We’ve been getting so much support on social media with positive reviews,” Pam said. “Our favorite is when people dine in and share with us how amazing Mom’s cooking is and they’ll be back with their friends and family.
“Since Mom is working hard in the kitchen, we tell her all of these positive feedbacks and it puts the biggest smile on her face. We wish everyone could see that.”
If you’re ever in the mood for a hot bowl of fresh pho made by Hoa herself, keep Le Pho House in mind. Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, the restaurant has become a favorite for diners all over the Rio Grande Valley.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think we would actually have a family restaurant — especially during these unpredictable times with a world pandemic,” Pam said. “Thank you for believing in us and growing with us.”
Le Pho House is located on N. Westgate Drive in Weslaco. To stay updated on all things pho, follow them on social media: @lephohouse on Instagram and Facebook.