by JANE KATHLEEN GREGORIO
The words Hom Pom, in the Laotian language, mean cilantro – a main ingredient in the Thai and Laotian dishes prepared by owner and executive chef Jessica Lemos at her newly opened restaurant Hom Pom Café.
“Hom Pom is also the nickname given to my son Zeke by his aunt and grandmother from Laos,” Lemos said. “Not only is Hom Pom café named after him, but the menu and beverages were also inspired by the kind of home cooking he loves to eat, and bubble drinks (or boba tea) flavors that he enjoys. He has a very discerning and sensitive taste palette and he helps guide me if we need to adjust some recipes.”
The café, located on Alameda near Everhart, in the space formerly occupied by Eleanor’s Coffee Bar, is distinguished by an iconic purple door, which Lemos said was inspired by their popular ube/taro bubble drink flavor. Inside, customers are greeted by colorful aqua blue walls, a bright flower mural for insta-worthy selfies, southeast Asian décor, a gallery of artwork for sale by local artisans, and as a corner dedicated to ‘propagating plants.’
“We support other local businesses too, like Get Growing, who provide mobile nursery services.Thanks to them, we have a thriving plant collection which our restaurant customers are welcome to have clippings from,” Lemos said.
Hom Pom Cafe offers Thai and Laotian cuisine as well as other Asian fusion dishes which include curry, ramen, pho, spring rolls and noodles as part of their soft opening menu.
According to Lemos’ 14-year old son Zeke Thongsavanh, one of the restaurant’s official taste testers, the most popular dish currently is the Asian marinade chicken wings.
“My mom has an original recipe that she uses for the chicken wings, and the flavor is unique, savory and stands out from other wings I’ve tried at other restaurants,” Thongsavanh said.
During the pandemic, Lemos had opened another restaurant, Spy Sushi on Kostoryz Road, but prior to that, had already had her eyes set on the shopping strip on Alameda. When the former tenants left, Lemos decided to make a move on the location.
“I never imagined one of my favorite coffee spots would suddenly be the venue of my restaurant,” Lemos said.
“This time, instead of adding sushi, we are focusing mainly on our Asian fusion dishes, such as our Laap Gai (spicy chicken salad) or Yum Nua (a rare steak salad), both with lime juice, onions, Thai pepper, and of course cilantro! For dessert we offer coconut sticky rice with fresh sweet mango. We get organic produce from local growers such as Dagon Produce and also offer vegetarian or vegan options for our customers. We will be adding more menu items after our ribbon-cutting and grand opening in August.”
Lemos acknowledges the support she has received from her business neighbors, family and friends, the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, and from the community.
“One of the things I want to learn more about is how to market on social media. I appreciate my younger wait staff, who are teaching me the value of engaging the community on Facebook, Instagram, etc to help improve our marketing,” said Lemos. Part of her recipe for success is hiring friendly, knowledgeable staff that know how to exceed customer expectations and are also happy to be working at Hom Pom Cafe.
In starting her business, Lemos hopes to leave a legacy for her son. She wants to show him that he can accomplish and achieve any dream with effort, patience and belief in oneself. As for Zeke, seeing his mother transform an idea into reality brings him inspiration.
“My family has done some pretty amazing things, and I feel really proud of what my mom was able to do with this restaurant,” Zeke Thongsavanh said.
“I am happy to invite my friends and their families to check out our restaurant’s cozy atmosphere and great food. I feel really good knowing we have a family business that I wouldn’t mind helping out with when I grow up.”
Hom Pom Cafe is located at 4231 S. Alameda Corpus Christi, TX 78412. For more information contact (361) 299-7766 or visit facebook.com/hompomcafe.