For anyone who has lived in or around the Harvey Park, College View, Ruby Park, or Mar Lee neighborhoods that surround South Federal – or especially those who grew up – hearing the name “Rapidos” will remind you of certain memories recall. They can be fuzzy and form the mere outlines of collective meals – with the expeditions themselves always being as important to the overall look as the tight, cheese and green chilli-laden bags that seemed to magically disappear. For the couple Long Nguyen and Shauna Seaman – both underground natives and alumni of the original Taco Rapidos – nostalgia was the creative fuel for the quickly acclaimed Pho King Rapidos. Shaped by a pre-dawn experimentalism, the food truck brings together the flavors of the duo’s Vietnamese heritage, the delicatessen and street staples of New York, and the Denver lens for Mexican dishes.
With Nguyen as the leading culinary force behind the entire project, Seaman has still found time to lend her talents. Spend your days as an ambulance At the Medical Center of Aurora, she was still largely responsible for planning, social media, and marketing. This helped increase awareness of a brand that clearly has no lack of personality. The trailer’s instantly recognizable blue bear, grinning in full flex from behind a row of sunglasses, is hard to miss. The entire design is evidence of the locations depicted. The crown, which is enthroned on a very slight slope, means New York, whereby Rapidos – laid out in smooth calligraphy – cement the operation to its roots in Colorado. While the name has been around for nearly eight years – Nguyen even claimed the email and domain names four years ago – each word has taken on greater meaning as the project took on a life of its own. “We always wanted to make a food truck,” smiled Seaman.
The couple, who have been married since 2015, first moved to New York when Seaman applied for a residency at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx. It wasn’t long before Nguyen – who had a long history in the food and beverage industry – started working and ultimately managing the West Village Pasta Darling dell’anima, where he learned to make pasta alongside Chef Andrew Whitney. Between long hours in their respective shops, the duo fell in love with bodega sandwiches and halal carts. After returning to Denver in 2018, Nguyen continued his leadership role and eventually took on the role at Tavernetta.
Though the name has existed for almost a decade, Pho King didn’t have its first service until September 17, 2020. The first sandwich was sold at an unofficial location on South Broadway. “We only paid for the meters,” laughed Seaman. Since then, the duo have had busy schedules, serving breweries, HOA-approved neighborhoods, and private lunches for companies like Lockheed Martin.
Most items, no matter how conventional they seem on paper, are likely to be at least subtly pollinated by each of the three food traditions. The Chicken over Rice ($ 10) It’s based on both the halal classic and Hainan chicken, the epitome of a dish that includes lemongrass marinated chicken legs, chicken broth rice with garlic and ginger, white sauce from NYC’s chicken cart, crispy Szechuan chilli, and garlic sautéed Mustard green combined. The best example of this could be al Pastor Banh Mi ($ 10) These include thick platters of pork marinated in pineapple with house mayo, cucumber, pickled carrots, lettuce and a hearty mix of fresh herbs.
Since every food is made from scratch, Nguyen always does numerous menu tests and finds that his friends and family were more than willing to help with research and development. Nguyen’s mother Thuy Nguyen even contributed recipes, with the exquisite wing sauce coming straight from her hands. Every week the menu will be different, with a rotating series of fan favorites, often with brand new items added. The only safe staples are those Chop cheese ($ 9) – a Harlem staple with a seasoned burger patty, chopped and paired with melted Monterey Jack, house mayo, lettuce and tomato on a hoagie – the chicken and the rice and that Jackfruit Banh Mi ($ 9) – a vegetarian-friendly reinterpretation in which MisoHot chili paste is used for an extremely delightful effect.
Pho King’s diary usually finds her out at least six days a week, and sometimes performs multiple duties in a single afternoon. Hoping the popularity will continue to grow, Nguyen plans to add a second trailer by the end of the year. It should also be noted that a bodega breakfast sandwich is on the horizon. “I saw a lot of friends I hadn’t seen in 20 years because of this truck,” smiled Nguyen.
The weekly schedule and specials from Pho King Rapidos can be found on Instagram.
All photographs by Adrienne Thomas.