Pho Café represents owner's dream


Ryan Fang | The Daily Illini

Pho Cafe owner, Seng and his wife Souphaphone Soutchay.

By Janet Kim

“My favorite part about going to Pho Café is the welcoming atmosphere by the owner and staff,” Rhee said. “It is very rare nowadays to come across such kind people that genuinely care about the quality of their food and service. Sometimes I go into their establishment just to say hello and exchange words.”

This sense of home and comfort is exactly what Seng and Souphaphone Soutchay, husband and wife and co-owners of Pho Café & Thai Kitchen located at 611-B East Green Street in Champaign, aim for at their restaurant, which opened last December.

“We get a lot of regular customers who like our food and that means a lot to us,” Souphaphone said. “We have met a lot of people that end up becoming our friends.”

Seng overcame a lot to achieve his goal of opening a restaurant.

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After growing up in Laos until he was nine, Seng’s father decided to come to America with Seng and his sister so they could have a better life. They were refugees who came to the U.S. with the assistance of sponsorships.

“He was probably thinking about the future generations of his family’s future,” he said. “I feel like my father always laid down the foundation for us to have a better life.”

After arriving in the U.S., Seng said he found the main difficulty was the language barrier, but ultimately he was able assimilate himself. Seng said he attributes this ability to adapt to a new environment to being young and spending most of his life here, and just going with the flow of things.

He also found passion in the restaurant business after meeting his wife.

“I met my wife in Providence and after we got married we helped her parent’s at their Thai restaurant. We helped them for three years and I realized during this time that I was a front guy and that I like to communicate with people,” Seng said. “After we left , I thought about it and it was really great and nice helping at the restaurant. Over time, I found myself constantly thinking about it.”

He said the only thing holding him back was the expense of opening a restaurant, but the yearning to open his own place never left him. His wife was initially against the notion, since she knew how difficult and time-consuming the restaurant business can be. Finally she gave in, and they began searching for a location in C-U, which took around two years.

“I value my family the most. They are the reason why I work so hard,” he said.

Now that they are business, Seng said they approach the restaurant business as an extension of their home.

“When people come here, it is like they are coming to my house,” he said. “I want to make sure I take care of them. Do my best. Make sure they’re comfortable and have enough to eat.”

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