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Get ready to take a culinary journey to Vietnam in the middle of Dundas West, starting this summer.
Hẻm Social is a new gem set to grace Toronto's food scene, rooted in the community and nostalgic upbringing of the owners. The new Vietnamese spot will open its doors on July 1, 2023.
To celebrate its grand opening on July 1, Hẻm Social will offer the first 30 customers of the day 20 per cent off their orders. And, every purchase made over $20 for the first three days of its opening will receive a complimentary homemade dessert.
Some will recognize the Hẻm Social brushstroke logo, tent and banh mi in the cover photo from Do West Fest 2023, where the restaurant had its first ever pop-up.
Jacky and Phuong Nguyen are the dynamic husband-wife duo behind Hẻm Social. Both Jacky and Phuong were born and raised in Saigon, Vietnam, where Jacky majored in Economics before getting into cooking, and Phuong studied Hospitality, inspired by her mother’s humble street noodle stall.
The two worked in New Brunswick under different chefs and at different venues for the past decade, before they sparked the idea for Hẻm Social.
"We both feel a deep sense for community and our Viet roots besides good food and good conversations," says Phuong.
"What started as weekend get togethers and cookouts for friends and family has turned into a dream of having a kitchen of our own. In September 2022, we moved to Toronto to make that dream a reality."
Phuong notes that while hẻm is a Vietnamese word that translates to "alleyway", it entails more than just a path that's only a few feet wide.
"It’s the neighbourhood alley in Saigon where me and my husband personally grew up playing outside, where we had a yummy bowl of pho or a quick banh mi before school," she expresses. "It’s a lingering Ca Phe Sua iced coffee to beat the morning blues before work when we were a bit older. It’s our grandparents' house where multi-generations grew up together, alongside a community with rich food, good vibes and amazingly genuine people."
With a goal in mind to recreate that kind of community and deep sense of home, Jacky and Phuong set out on their entrepreneurial journey.
Inside Hẻm Social, visitors will find minimal decorations, but those items that do adorn the place will evoke culture and craftsmanship from Vietnam. Some of the art pieces are quite personal, such as drawings by Phuong's mother-in-law, which have been shipped in, and other artists from Vietnam.
"Hẻm is a way of life," says Phuong. "It is here before us and will still be here long after us. So we feel it’s important to honour the lifestyle in a fun and eclectic atmosphere for everyone to enjoy and cherish together while they casually dine in and chill with us."
While the menu is still under development, customers can expect staples like pho, banh mi, and vermicelli, alongside with shareable snacks like glazed wings, Goi Ga (cabbage slaw) and fresh spring rolls.
Phuong says that the Do West Fest best-seller, the Lemongrass BBQ Chicken Banh Mi, will indeed be on the menu, as well as cocktails, craft beer from local breweries, Vietnamese iced coffee, and tropical iced teas.
The weekend special menu items will be a highlight, where the restaurateurs will aim to showcase lesser known or more experimental Vietnamese dishes, such as Bun Rieu (a noodle soup with crab), Bun Bo (a noodle soup with sliced beef, and sometimes pork knuckles), Banh Gio (a rice and pork dumpling), Chao (a chicken and rice porridge), or desserts like Che (a sweet soup).
"This is our own different creation each time," explains Phuong.
"This gives our adventurous customers more room to experiment, meanwhile we have tons of fun in the kitchen working towards something new besides the regular menu."
Hẻm Social is located at 1424 Dundas St. W. Opening hours will be announced soon on its Instagram page. Keep up with Hẻm Social on Instagram.