On Thursday nights at Mojo Bicycle Cafe come for the pho and pastries and stay for the company. Valerie and Katie of Rice Paper Scissors pop up at the cafe weekly, serving a variety of Vietnamese fare—pho, banh mi, vegetarian “smoked duck” and desserts. They set up small wooden tables outside of the cafe and in their street side parklet, and encourage visitors to take a seat on tiny red plastic stools, often spotted throughout Vietnam.
To Valerie, the spirit of San Francisco and Vietnam are similar—both maintain an attitude of “just doing it.” “You need to be scrappy and industrious to create the things that you want to exist,” she told us.
“I tell people that I started cooking when I started cooking,” Valerie told us of her background. “I cooked my first egg in college.”
Needless to say, she’s come a long way since then. Her knack for Vietnamese cooking, utilizing her grandmother’s recipes, brought her to the Underground Market. The gathering was held in a club with 20 different vendors, selling their home cooked goods. “It felt like a circus,” Valerie told us of the experience. It was there that she teamed up with Katie, who was also whipping up Vietnamese dishes.
Soon after cooking together, their “just do it,” attitude brought them to knocking on the doors of people in the neighborhood who had noticeable patio or deck space. A friendly guy in the Mission agreed to let them pop-up in his patio, a tiny space that ended up drawing far too many people than it could accommodate.
Knowing this wasn’t a sustainable solution for their budding business, they took to the streets. Specifically, they set up shop on Divisadero across the street from Mojo Bicycle Cafe. After a particularly busy evening with Dave Chappelle performing next door, the owner of the cafe approached them, asking if they’d be interested in moving their operation indoors.
They’ve been setting up there weekly ever since, catching the eye of many local publications and even Anthony Bourdain. Just one day per week doesn’t seem like enough time for everyone to get their fix of Vietnamese food!
Photos by Collin Hughes