Kibi’s Café Brings Traditional Vietnamese Cuisine to Theatre Square

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(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
Kibi’s Café features traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Hoang Ho, the owner of Kibi’s Café, named the restaurant after the nicknames for her daughter Ki and her son Bi.

    If you take a stroll into downtown Orinda’s Theatre Square, you will find Kibi’s Café, a small corner restaurant serving fresh Vietnamese fare. If you find yourself stopping in for a bite, you may even get a chance to chat with the café’s owner, Hoang Ho.
    The Orinda Kibi’s, which occupies 2 Orinda Theatre Square, Suite 151 in the building that once housed the bakery Republic of Cake, is the second location Ho has opened in the East Bay, with a soft opening in Aug. 2022.
    The first Kibi’s was opened in downtown Walnut Creek in Jan. 2018 and survived the upheaval of COVID-19 and a three-month closure, although Ho admits, “the pandemic hit heavily” for restaurants.
    “I feel fortunate to have had the support of the community at the Walnut Creek location during the pandemic,” she said. “Without the support of the community, we wouldn’t have made it.”
    Ho emigrated from central Vietnam in 2015, and the food she serves at Kibi’s reflects that region’s tastes, featuring a balance of freshness and healthiness that she called “the core of Vietnamese culture.”
    Growing up as a grandchild of farmers, Ho, who was surrounded by fruit and vegetable farms and traditional Vietnamese street food, sees food as a way to connect with the community.
    “I wanted to do something on my own; just build it,” Ho said of her venture, noting she “started very small” with the Walnut Creek café. She is a single mother of two, with both cafés’ namesake being a combination of the nicknames of her daughter and son, respectively.
    A balance of rice, vegetables and protein, Ho said, are the three elements that make up Vietnamese cuisine. The menu at the café includes bánh mì sandwiches with a selection of fillings such as grilled chicken and pork; gỏi cuốn, or summer rolls, also with a selection of fillings; and bún, noodle salads, with a variety of fresh vegetables and meats.
    Also available are vegan and vegetarian food options, plus traditional Vietnamese coffee, house coffee and Thai iced tea. The menu board at the Orinda location notes more options are coming soon.
    Ho spoke of the rise in food prices because of the pandemic, saying it has been tough to balance the increase in food prices with menu prices. Quality remains top priority at Kibi’s, with Ho deciding against using ingredients such as prechopped vegetables for convenience.
    “That way, we can maintain the consistency of the freshness,” she said, admitting the behind-the-scenes environment of a restaurant involves hard work due to the many different aspects of the business.
    Ingredients such as aioli, pickles, dipping sauces and meats are “proudly and exclusively homemade,” as noted on the Kibi’s Café website. Customers can use the site to preorder their food from either location.
    Kibi’s Café in Orinda is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, closed on Sundays.
Ho emphasized her happiness with the new Orinda café.
    “I feel very fortunate to have this space,” she said.

Andrea Madison can be reached at drea.madison.05@gmail.com.

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