Former Cafe TH Owner Leads Menu at Bellaire Restaurant CounterCommon
Minh Nguyen operated the popular and long-running Vietnamese restaurant Café TH from 2007 until 2021, and later, Celadon Coffee. Then, the combination of the pandemic and ongoing maintenance headaches made it infeasible to continue. As he first strived for the survival of his businesses, and then later prepared to close them, in the background he quietly entered into a business partnership with Dennis Rhee and Jaime Robles. With Rhee as COO and head brewer and Robles as CEO, the trio opened CounterCommon Beerworks & Kitchen at 5413 Bellaire, in the heart of the Bellaire Triangle. After welcoming a baby last year, Nguyen is now in a visible role as general manager, as well as guiding the menu along with kitchen manager Mauricio Fuentes. (Opening chef Iggy Olivera is no longer with the company.)
“Minh brings over a decade of culinary experience and warm hospitality to our daily operations,” Robles said. “He’s leading the revamping of the CounterCommon menu by adding new items and keeping the fan favorites. His vision will help us continue to offer innovative fusion dishes inspired by Houston’s diverse foodscape paired with world-class beers.”
Thanks to Nguyen’s deeper involvement, diners can expect him to revive some Cafe TH favorites, including spring rolls, Vietnamese vermicelli noodle bowls and wok dishes. We asked for a selection of dishes that diners should try now, along with beer pairing suggestions.
- Bellaire Cheeseburger: Two four-ounce 44 Farms beef patties smashed and topped with cheddar, lettuce, onions, tomato and house dill pickles. Served with hand-cut fries and a side of Korean Comeback sauce.
Beer pairing suggestion: Bellaire Light, a 4.2% ABV lager with a delicate hint of jasmine rice
- Fried Stuffed Baos: Three bao buns stuffed with Oaxaca cheese and chorizo and deep-fried to golden perfection. Served with a side of pickled kimchi veggies.
Beer pairing suggestion: Copy/Paste Hazy IPA, which comes in at 6.7% ABV and has berry, orange and mango notes from Azacca and Mosaic hops.
- Piratas: Three quesadillas stuffed with al pastor and crisped on a comal. Topped with fresh cilantro and onions, and served with a side of hand-cut fries and salsas.
Beer pairing suggestion: Apollo Moonshot IPA. (See below for more about this beer collaboration.)
- Wedge Salad: Iceberg lettuce wedge topped with our creamy slaw dressing, bleu cheese crumbles, bacon, caramelized onions, sliced cherry tomatoes, and house croutons.
Beer pairing suggestion: Same, Same But Different Hazy IPA, a West Coast-style 6.4% IPA with citrus and guava notes from Columbus, Citra, Amarillo, and Simcoe hops reportedly works well with the blue cheese.
- Raspberry Salad: Mixed greens, fresh raspberries, shaved Parmesan cheese, candied pecans, and sliced cherry tomatoes tossed in house balsamic vinaigrette. Seasoned with Himalayan salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Beer pairing suggestion: Nein Schadenfreude Kölsch, a crisp 4.5% ABV German pale ale
There are new collaborative beers, too. One is an Astros-themed collaboration with Apollo Media and Country Malt Group called Apollo Moonshot, a 5.9% IPA made with with Apollo, Centennial, and Amarillo hops and orange peel. Up next for Pride Month in June is Rye’d with Pride, created in partnership with Cole Wehner and Brett Chynoweth of H-Town Beer Guys. Part of the profits will be donated to LGBTQ+ communities in Houston.
CounterCommon is currently serving both lunch and dinner every day except for Monday when it’s dinner only from 4 to 9 p.m. There’s a special brunch menu on the weekends from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring dishes such as breakfast tacos, Breakfast Banh Mi with two fried eggs, bacon, pickled carrots and jalapeño, fresh cucumber, and cilantro with fries alongside, and chicken and waffle with an option to upgrade to Korean fried chicken.
Phaedra Cook has written about Houston’s restaurant and bar scene since 2010. She was a regular contributor to My Table magazine (now closed) and was the lead restaurant critic for the Houston Press for two years, eventually being promoted to food editor. Cook founded Houston Food Finder in November 2016 and has been its editor and publisher ever since.
I love the entrepreneurial spirit of Minh Nguyen. That takes real guts and determination. Never give up!
Food looks delicious!