Monday, June 18, 2018

The Spot House Combines Vietnamese and American Favorites in Florissant

Posted By on Mon, Jun 18, 2018 at 9:33 AM

click to enlarge Jay and Lisa Nguyen of the Spot House. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • Jay and Lisa Nguyen of the Spot House.

Burgers and bánh mì may sound like strange bedfellows, but Jay and Lisa Nguyen are not letting that stop them. At their new restaurant, The Spot House (6 Mullanphy Court, Florissant; 314-755-1500), the husband-and-wife team are are proudly serving an eclectic menu of American bar-and-grill staples and Vietnamese specialties, and they see no problem with that — in fact, they see it as a selling point.

"We have three or four different countries' food in the same restaurant," Jay Nguyen boasts. "We want to give people a choice — to make people feel that all are welcome."

An automobile mechanic by trade, Nguyen's entrepreneurial spirit has led him to a varied career: He's done everything from flipping houses to owning liquor and convenience stores. His wife, Lisa, had always been supportive of his endeavors, but in 2011, she made it know that she was eager to get into business herself. A talented home cook, she felt she could translate her cooking prowess into a successful restaurant, so the couple took the leap and opened an American bar and grill, Cedar Hill Resort, along the Great River Road in Brussels, Illinois.

The Nguyens continue to enjoy success with Cedar Hill Resort, but they decided to open a second restaurant for two reasons. First, Cedar Hill Resort is a seasonal establishment. Because of its location on the river, the restaurant caters to water-sports enthusiasts and is only open a few months out of the year. The Nguyens wanted a restaurant that would be open year-round.

More importantly, however, the Nguyens wanted a business in their own neighborhood. When the opportunity arose for them to open a location just down the road from their house, they jumped on it.

"Florissant is my hometown," Jay Nguyen says. "I wanted to have a restaurant in my own community."

click to enlarge A bánh mì and rare beef pho from the Spot House. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • A bánh mì and rare beef pho from the Spot House.

That community is deep into Florissant, on the northern outskirts of the north-county suburb not far from the Missouri River. The Spot House is located in an unremarkable strip mall in a residential neighborhood off Mullanphy Lane (which is also home to the area mainstay Roberto's Italian Restaurant, an underrated destination for St. Louis-style pizza) that you might pass if you were not paying attention.

Using his skills in home renovation, Jay Nguyen himself did most of the work transforming the double storefront into the Spot House. The space is large, consisting of a massive dining room and a second room dedicated to the bar. Both are sparsely decorated with tables, chairs, wood paneling and the occasional beer or liquor poster.

The Spot House's menu is divided almost equally between American and Vietnamese fare. On one half, guests will find burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, shrimp poppers and onion rings. Though it reads like standard bar fare, Jay Nguyen emphasizes that his wife makes nearly everything from scratch.

"The mushrooms are stuffed and hand-breaded here, the burgers are made here, the shrimp poppers are stuffed by her," he explains. "Most places doing American food just get in frozen things, but we do everything as fresh as possible. It's healthier that way."

click to enlarge A selection of Vietnamese specialties from the Spot House. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • A selection of Vietnamese specialties from the Spot House.

The Vietnamese side of the menu has such classic dishes as pho, bánh mì, spring rolls sizzling pork and a crepe filled with bean sprouts, pork and shrimp. Mr. Nguyen has been pleasantly surprised by the reception the more traditional dishes have been getting. In fact, the bánh mì is one of the restaurant's most popular dishes.

As for the name, Mr Nguyen explains that it took him a long time to think of something to call the eatery, and he felt this captured exactly what he is trying to get across with his inclusive restaurant.

"A 'spot' is a place where people come together — family and friends. People say, 'This is our spot,'" he says. "And the shape of the roof on this building made it look like someone's home. So that's why I came up with the name — it's a place where people can come and be together and feel like they are at home."

The Spot House is open daily from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Click through for more photos.

click to enlarge A Vietnamese-style crepe with bean sprouts, pork and chicken. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • A Vietnamese-style crepe with bean sprouts, pork and chicken.

click to enlarge The Spot House has a full bar. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • The Spot House has a full bar.
click to enlarge The Spot House has a large, open dining room. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • The Spot House has a large, open dining room.
click to enlarge The Spot House is now open in Florissant. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • CHERYL BAEHR
  • The Spot House is now open in Florissant.

We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at cheryl.baehr@riverfronttimes.com.

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