Founder Pat Lee, grew up in the Asian grocery business. His family opened the first Asian grocery store in Austin and years later, built the first “Chinatown” Center in Central Texas. Sara Lee, grew up in San Antonio helping her family run their restaurants. As fate may have it, Pat met Sara upon her graduation from the University of Texas at Austin. Pat shared his love for the food of his homeland with Sara. Together, they opened their first restaurant, Pho Saigon in 2006. Shortly after opening, they realized many people who have never had Vietnamese food were slightly intimidated and often times, confused by the menu, because they were mostly printed in Vietnamese. Phonatic was conceived out of a desire to make Vietnamese food more inviting and less intimidating, in a fast casual environment. They launched the first Phonatic restaurant in October of 2011 and set off on their mission of making Pho Phun, Phast, and Phresh.
From his background in the grocery and food service business, Pat chooses to use the best and freshest ingredients possible. Being responsible business owners and using the best possible ingredients are very important to the Lee’s. Their own kids love to eat at Phonatic and Sara says, “We would not serve anything that we wouldn’t feed our own children and we take great pride in that. “ Most recently, eliminating the use of MSG from the Phonatic menu entirely. No matter your food palette, we desire to create a mainstay for Vietnamese food as an option to burgers, chicken and tacos for everyone, converting one “Phonatic” at a time!