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A Pun-Packed Pho Place Gives Georgetown Kids a New, Affordable Date Spot

SugarLab has rebranded as Hot Pho You

Signage at Hot Pho You
The modern setup at Hot Pho You.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

A dessert shop in Georgetown that sold gelato, bubble tea, and sweet bubble waffles has rebranded as a fast-casual Vietnamese restaurant serving pho and “giant,” burrito-sized spring rolls that turn the appetizer into a full meal.

Hot Pho You (3279 M Street NW) opened yesterday, replacing SugarLab with a new place that incorporates all of the puns.

The 16-seat subterranean space offers dine-in or takeout services for its classic pho and dry-mix pho served with broth on the side. There are also Vietnamese pork buns and vermicelli noodle salads with tofu and brisket.

Dry-mix pho with chicken and a side of broth at Hot Pho You
Dry-mix pho with chicken and a side of broth at Hot Pho You
Tierney Plumb/Eater D.C.

Siblings Cathy and Hung Do opened SugarLab in 2018 with the goal to share sweet recipes that their mother, also named Cathy, made for them growing up.

“We were doing very well in the summer, but ice cream didn’t bring as much money for me to pay rent in the winter,” the younger Cathy Do says. “That’s when I decided, why don’t I do pho? That’s my mom’s recipe and food too.”

Bowls are built for to suit budgets of nearby Georgetown University students. Noodle salads start at $5.99, and the cheapest bowl of pho is $6.99. The owner’s mom preps ingredients from a commercial kitchen in Virginia, making deliveries to Georgetown every two days.

“Since everything is homemade, the cost is cheaper,” Do says. “It’s Georgetown, so we didn’t want to charge an arm and leg.”

Tierney Plumb/Eater DC

The shop closed for a month to refresh the space. The formerly teal-toned shop got a sophisticated upgrade, with green vines dangling on black matte walls, light wooden accents, and glowing gold metal orbs hovering over diners.

Do decided to have fun with the name to stand out.

“I didn’t want to be another number, like a Pho 75. [Hot Pho You] is showing my passion for my mom’s food and how good it is,” she says. The name is also a nod to M Street’s date-friendly strip.

Two high-tech Toast kiosks situated in a foyer off M Street handle all the ordering. Patrons can tap their orders onto touchscreens and get a text when the food is ready downstairs.

There’s also a long list of bubble teas to choose from, with strawberry and mango “popping” boba that bursts in the mouth. The most popular specialty milk tea order is the pink-hued rose flavor. The shop uses real fruit, not syrups, to make teas in flavors like peach, mango, and raspberry. There’s also cold brew, caramel coffee, and strong Vietnamese coffee.

The shop is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and could start extending hours on Saturdays to bring in the bar crowd. Alcohol — like spiked boba teas — might also join the mix down the line.

D.C.’s bubble tea scene grew this week with the arrival of Spot of Tea inside NoMa’s Streets Market.