A new—and not so new—Vietnamese American restaurant stands in the warm glow of neon lights at the corner of Eldert Street and Wilson Avenue. Run by married couple Chris Taha and Jenny Baker, Money Cat offers an assortment of classic Vietnamese dishes, including steaming bowls of pho and banh mi sandwiches.
The restaurant had been open just a month when the pandemic shut it down for over a year, but since reopening it has been garnering more and more traffic despite mainly being advertised by word of mouth.
Money Cat is inspired by Taha and Baker’s experiences with Vietnamese food on the West Coast, where Taha says pho spots were as common as bodegas are in New York. The couple has fond memories of late-night noodles and spaces where diverse groups of people would come together to share delicious food.
Taha and Baker actually met at Father Knows Best, the coffeehouse and bar that Taha opened a few years prior just down the block from Money Cat.
When Taha created Father Knows Best, he envisioned a community space where neighbors would be able to come together and share lattes in the morning or beers after work. The couple’s warm greetings to customers suggest Money Cat has a similar vision in mind.
Taha hopes Money Cat will be able to capture the sense of community he felt as a college student meeting people of all ages and backgrounds during late-night runs for pho. After all, he says, who doesn’t need a big bowl of noodles when they’re drunk?
And pho isn’t the only option on the menu. Money Cat has a variety of classic Vietnamese American dishes, from Chinese sausage banh mi to vermicelli bowls, as well as sesame balls for dessert.
Money Cat is the couple’s first restaurant, and they hope to open many more. For now, they’re focused on expanding to weekend brunch and experimenting with the menu.
Though still waiting for a liquor license, the restaurant has other tasty drinks on the menu, including their iced Vietnamese coffee, which is canned in-house and decorated with Money Cat’s signature logo: a woman riding a cat.
Even as word spreads and the crowds grow, Baker and Taha have kept the place running smoothly. In the restaurant business, especially since the pandemic, busy is good, and based on its reception so far, Money Cat is sure to get even busier.
All images courtesy of Chris Taha.
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