Raleigh, N.C. — Sophia Woo is late. But she has a good reason. One of the founders of the Raleigh-based food truck, Pho Nomenal Dumpling, is dealing with a mechanical problem on the truck.
"It's one of the hazards of buying a used truck," Woo said in a phone interview last week.
Fans of the food truck will remember the road trouble it encountered on the Food Network's "Great Food Truck Race" in 2015. After the truck broke down in the first episode, the team rebounded and ended up winning the competition and its $50,000 prize.
"It’s all about finding the beauty and humor and the good foods in the disasters that happen," Woo said. "The service industry has reaffirmed my faith in people. People are always so welcoming and willing to help."
Woo and Pho Nomenal co-founder Sunny Lin are teaming up with Matt Kenner, owner of Milk Bar and Anchor Bar in Raleigh, to open Mofu Shoppe at 321 S. Blount St. in City Market. The space, which used to be an old car dealership, is currently under construction. Once finished, Woo said they plan to have indoor and outdoor seating, courtesy of two large garage doors that can be lifted.
A 13-foot bar is being constructed in the middle of the restaurant and its menu will include some "fun cocktails," Woo said.
The food menu will feature the truck's famous dumplings and some other Asian-inspired dishes.
"We loved the playfulness and humor that we've always found on the food truck. We pair a lot of Southern foods with some sort of Asian twist," Woo said. The restaurant's menu will feature "East Meets West" cuisine.
"We always love good food. We are foodies," Woo said. "We all have that inner fat kid in us."
The menu will have a variety of dishes that highlight fun takes on Asian street food, offering "something familiar but something interesting at the same time."
"It's all about presenting a new culture in an inviting and unintimidating way," Woo said.
To help shape the menu, Mofu has hired Andrew Schaumann as head chef.
Schaumann is also from the food truck scene (he used to own Sol Tacos) and used to run the kitchen at Vivace in North Hills. Schaumann started working on the Pho Nomenal food truck following "Great Food Truck Race" filming, so he was a natural fit to run Mofu Shoppe's kitchen.
"He comes with a wealth of knowledge of food. He has helped us tremendously with the menu and how to run a restaurant," Woo said. And look for Sol Tacos' famous fish tacos to end up on the menu at Mofu.
Expect parts of the menu to change quarterly and for the venue to feature special menu nights and one-off events.
Mofu Shoppe is planning to be open by early summer, but don't expect Pho Nomenal Dumpling to go away. The truck is scaling back a little this year, but plans to be on the road again in 2018.
"It's where we started. It's what people know us as," Woo said. "We are never taking the truck out of commission completely."