Nguyen family

As some Texas transplants say, “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast as I could,” and the same can be said for Street Churros, a new food shop in the Southwest Management District.

As the shop serves tasty fried dough treats to a steady stream of fans, it stands apart as a business owned by a Vietnamese-American family who learned about the Spanish/Portuguese product in South Korea.

Nancy and Tien Nguyens’ love for churros — and for the Street Churros franchise specifically — goes back to 2016, when they visited Seoul, South Korea, with friends. They stumbled upon a Street Churros shop while exploring.

“At first,” Nguyen said, “I wasn’t interested in trying it, but our friends got some and we fell in love.”

Immediately, she said, they reached out to the company to see about the possibility of opening a franchise. They didn’t get a response.

Three years later, they once again stumbled upon another Street Churros location, this time in Los Angeles.

 “I reached out to them again, met the manager and signed on,” Nguyen said.

Today, the Nguyens’ two Street Churros shops in Houston — one at 9938 Bellaire Boulevard, the other in Spring Branch — are the only Street Churros locations in the United States. The one they visited in California did not survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are Street Churros locations in Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and China. Locations are coming soon in Japan, Brazil and Australia.

The franchise originated in Seoul, where street food is extremely popular. The founder loved churros but wanted to make a “healthier” version that is not as oily, Nguyen said.

Shesaid the founder also loved ice cream with churros, a combo that can be found at the Southwest District shop.

The menu there is succinct; you have three flavor choices before you — sweet, savory or both.

I brought a friend to the shop on a weekday, where minutes after opening at 2 p.m. there were already customers at a table, enjoying their churros.

Much to my surprise, my friend admitted she had never tried a churro. Ever.

How could that be? I knew this friend had a sweet tooth. She is also Mexican-American. Surely, she had been offered churros before.

“There was always something else that caught my eye,” she said, adding that her family couldn’t believe she was breaking her “streak” of not trying them.

If you’ve never had a churro, it’s best to start with the traditional version. So, she ordered the “OG,” a large, horseshoe-shaped cinnamon sugar churro.

I chose the Street Churros founder’s favorite ice cream and churro combo, which is essentially a cup of vanilla ice cream with an OG churro on top.

I watched my friend’s face light up as she took her first bite of churro. And then I challenged her: “Now try it with some soft-serve ice cream.”

She took a spoonful of ice cream from my cup. (The person behind the counter gave us two spoons, anticipating a sharing situation).

“Oh, that’s good,” she said, wide-eyed, immediately dipping her spoon back into the cup for another spoonful and then alternating the small scoop with a bite of her churro.

Next time, I told her, she should try the “Churrodog” — a cinnamon and sugar-sweetened churro “bun” filled with a salty hot dog and dressed with mustard, ketchup and relish.

As a side order, she can get “Churrofries” — fries made of churros seasoned with onion or cheese flavor.

It may take a while for my friend to work up to it, but from my experience, the Churrodog is particularly worth trying.

Nancy Nguyen said her grandparents came to the U.S. in 1975 as refugees from Vietnam. They had eight children, she said, and started a successful food business. Her parents, also restaurateurs, taught her to run a register at 8 years old.

“I have learned a lot from them,” she said.

Future plans for Street Churros include opening more locations in Houston, Nguyen said, but “that will be a while.”

For now, she said, they are just happy to be finally serving one of their favorite food finds in the Houston area.

“Life is short, enjoy every bite,” she said.

Street Churros Chinatown
9938 Bellaire Blvd.

— Dorothy Puch Lillig