Necessity is the mother of taking chances, said Mark Twain, so when Cat Tran lost her corporate job in 2009, she and her husband took a chance and became restaurateurs.
Husband Mark Nielsen quit his corporate job, and the couple found a former restaurant in Bay View and he said, “Hey, let’s take a look at it.”
That’s when they decided to open Hue, a Vietnamese-inspired restaurant. “It was trial by fire,” he said. “We learned quickly and we got good at it.”
So good that they opened a second Hue in October 2014 in Wauwatosa, with him using his business skills and Tran taking care of the cuisine.
Tran is Vietnamese, and some of the dishes she creates are authentic, while she instills her own flair to the flavors.
Popular are the fried rice and Com Suon Nuong, a dish of marinated pork chops and barbecue short ribs with a house-made egg roll, cucumbers, tomatoes, pickled carrot and daikon, a white root vegetable, served over jasmine rice and nuoc mam, a spicy Vietnamese fish sauce.
“Some people like it because there’s a lot of variety going on while some people like it because it’s a lot of food,” said Nielsen.
Hue has a full-service bar with a seasonal specialty cocktail menu, tap beers and tap wine – which Nielsen said stays fresher longer and allows them to keep the cost down. “We try to keep a lot of craft beers,” he said, and Hue carries some Asian beers as well, such as Lucky Buddha.
Vietnamese beers are harder to obtain, but they do get some varieties in from time to time, Nielsen said.
The atmosphere is casual and relaxed, and there is table and bar seating. Vietnamese pictures and artwork adorn the walls painted in warm tones.
“There’s a lot of energy here, and that energy’s growing,” said Nielsen. “This location has really given us the opportunity to reach out as far as Waukesha.”
ADDRESS: 6519 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa
RESERVATIONS: Not required, but recommended on Fridays and Saturdays
FARE: Vietnamese-inspired dishes, with some authentic and some with Executive Chef Cat Tran’s personal flair. Appetizers include Cha Gio (egg rolls) Goi Cuon (fresh spring rolls) and Bo Thit Nuong (beef skewers with a lemongrass and garlic marinade). The menu includes a wide of noodle soups, noodle dishes, egg noodle dishes, rice dishes and Com Chien, a specialty dish of fried rice with Chinese sausage, barbecue pork, shrimp and vegetables.
PRICE RANGE: Appetizers start at $6.50 for egg rolls, with So Hap Xa, a pound of Vietnamese mussels steamed in garlic and wine and tossed with a lemongrass, ginger and lime dressing, selling for $13.50. Entrees range in price from $11 for the Pho Tai Chin, sirloin steak and brisket with beef broth, rice noodles and Vietnamese herbs, to $19.50 for Ca Ri Do Bien, a seafood curry dish with shrimp, scallops, mussels, calamari, vegetables, lemongrass, bay leaves and jasmine rice.
HOURS: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed on Sundays.