Finding a Sweet Spot: BFF Asian Grill & Sports Bar Hits the Mark
May 15, 2015 09:07AM
Charlie Pham has worked for IBM, launched his own import/export business, opened a supermarket, operated a wholesale business, and funded the opening of restaurants for business partners. So it was no surprise back in 1995 when he finally opened his own restaurant, Pho 95 in Arlington. Since then, he has opened a second location of Pho 95 and, more recently, opened three locations of his BFF Asian Grill restaurant - in just the last two years.
The 52-year-old entrepreneur opened the Mansfield location of BFF Asian Grill & Sports Bar in November of 2013 on E. Debbie Lane and he says things have been going well. “We live in Mansfield and love being a part of the community here,” he says. “Whether we’re talking about our employees or our customers, we like to think of everyone as a part of the family.”
Pham was born in Vietnam and immigrated with his family to the U.S. when he was just 10 years old. The family lived in New England and he attended college in Boston before setting out on his own. It was during his time operating his import/export business that he began traveling a lot and eventually found himself in Texas in the early 1980s. “I had always heard about Texas being rustic and wild but what I found was very different, I loved it, and I moved down here within five months of that first visit,” he says.
When he first got into the restaurant business about a decade ago, he says, he had ambitions to “create an Asian Subway-like concept” that he could expand through franchising. But he found that operating a restaurant took a lot of time and attention to detail to make sure everything was done perfectly and up to his standards. So he scaled back those initial expansion plans to focus on doing things right. It was a move that has benefitted his restaurants. Of course, he was not content to own and operate five restaurants. He also is the CEO of his own Southwest Restaurant Equipment company supplying all kinds of equipment to restaurants, apartments and hospitals.
Pham is a busy man who is always on the go but he says he always makes time to stop by each of his restaurants as often as possible to order from the menu and visit with his crews and customers. “We have very high standards and I always tell my people, ‘If it’s not good enough for you and me to eat then it’s not good enough for our customers to eat.’”
VARIETY – THE SPICE OF LIFE
BFF Asian Grill & Sports Bar has a great look and feel to it. It has kind of an upscale style with stone and wood facades and dark colors inside. But it doesn’t seem stuffy at all and the open area where the bar sits welcomes you with an extensive drink offering – including more than 100 craft beers. Outside is patio seating that was just perfect on the warm sunny spring day that we visited. Pham says there’s enough seating inside and out to comfortably accommodate 200 guests who are tended to by the 40-plus staff here. “We don’t have employees, we have members of our family,” says Pham. He says dinner and weekends are the busiest times for the restaurant.
The food here is Asian with a unique blend of Japanese, French and Vietnamese styles, which Pham calls “a real niche.” You’ll find sushi and nigiri, rice, pho noodles, banh mi, pad thai, egg and spring rolls, as well as salads, steak, chicken, wings, vegetarian options and a kids menu. “Everything is prepared fresh daily both before lunch and before dinner in order to ensure optimal quality and taste,” says Pham.
After talking with Pham it was time to judge for ourselves. First up were a couple of appetizers that he says are very popular at the bar – calamari, crab rangoon and pot stickers. The calamari was lightly fried and garnished with jalapenos, red and green onions and a sharply spicy dipping sauce. The crab rangoon were fried dumplings stuffed with cream cheese, yellow onions and crab meat and served with a sweet and sour sauce. Last but not least were the pot stickers. This signature dish featured tender marinated grilled chicken, cabbage and 11 other succulent ingredients mixed together, wrapped with wonton paper and served with a dipping sauce. This was all very well done and would be perfect right alongside a meal or when sipping one of their craft beers served at the bar.
Our main course was a piping hot bowl of beef pho with noodles and an Amazing Roll from the sushi menu. The beef pho was a large bowl of steaming pho noodles and veggies swimbming in a delicious broth and tender beef. The Amazing Roll was tempura shrimp, crab mix and cream cheese together, all then topped with crab, wasabi mayo, spicy mayo, sriracha and eel sauce. If you’re a sushi lover, you can’t go wrong with this or any of the other nearly two dozen sushi rolls available here.
As for the name, Pham says BFF stands for Best Food Forever for Friends and Family. You’ll just have to try it yourself and make your own conclusion. BFF Asian Grill & Sports Bar is at 1601 E. Debbie Lane, Suite 2105 in Mansfield. It’s open Sunday through Thursday from 11:00 a.m. until midnight and Friday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 a.m. Visit them online at www.bffbistro.com or call the Mansfield location directly at 817-473-7233.
Q&A with BFF Grill’s Charlie Pham
Charlie Pham is an intense but approachable entrepreneur. He has started numerous successful businesses and today is the owner and found of BFF Asian Grill & Sports Bar in Mansfield – he oversees four more restaurants in the metroplex – as well as his own restaurant equipment supply company. He was able to make time to visit with us recently this spring over some yummy Asian fare on a beautifully sunny afternoon. The 52-year-old married father of two is open and engaging and proud to talk about his “family” restaurant. He loves living in Mansfield and says he wouldn’t be anywhere else. We asked him to tell us a little bit more about himself. Here’s what we discovered:
What makes your food/menu unique?
A combination of Japanese, French and Vietnamese styles and over 100 craft beers.
Any new menu items on the way?
Yes, we are always developing new items.
What is the most popular or most requested dish you make?
Rainbow Roll, Amazing Roll, Tuna Tower, calamari, pot stickers, chunky beef steak, house noodles.
How do you want customers to remember their experience?
For quality of food, customer service and ambience of the restaurant.
What is your favorite type of food to eat?
I love Mexican food and Del Frisco’s Steak House.
What are your other hobbies?
I love soccer and racquetball.
Do you have a favorite quote or advice you’ve received or given?
Do not worry about your business. Focus on customer service and quality of food and let them take care of your business.
What’s the last book you read?
The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically by Peter Singer.
If you had to choose another profession what would it be?
Volunteer to help people whenever and wherever they need help.
Written by Kerry Pipes