Thanks to its youthfulness and strong Asian population, the city of Arlington has its share of bubble tea shops, particularly around the University of Texas at Arlington. But there's not much competition towards I-20, and that's good news for 1102 Bubble Tea and Bites, opening in October on Cooper Street, a few blocks north of the Parks at Arlington Mall.
Husband-and-wife owners Huy Hong and Dan Tran hatched the idea to do a bubble tea shop about a year ago, Hong says. He's a pharmacist and she's a cosmetologist, but they dreamed of having their own business. "And we both love bubble tea," Hong says.
But there's more than that to 1102.
"The concept behind everything we do is to give Arlington and the surrounding area a place to hang out," Hong says. "Whenever my friends and I went to meet up, it seemed like it was always Starbucks. We thought, 'Why don't we have a place similar to that, where friends can meet up.'"
They're also doing something different from the usual bubble tea spot, in that their drinks can be personally customized.
"We'll serve regular tea and bubble tea, but we'll also have a way for you to customize your own milk tea," he says. "We'll give you a hot pot, and you can take different flavors and toppings. We'll have all the usual items people put in their tea, like boba tapioca balls, and fruit jellies, and flan, and mochi, the chewy rice sweet — we'll have all of those. You can mix your own drink yourself, or go with a group and share."
They'll also do Italian sodas, sorbets, and smoothies, including a decadent one blending macha with cookies. That does it for the drink part. The "bites" consist of snacks and desserts, including some pretty novel creations, mostly dreamed up by his wife Dan.
There's a spring roll with beef jerky and mango mayonnaise, and "hot fire bread," their version of a banh mi sandwich with shredded pork and sriracha sauce on a baguette. There's an egg cake that's a little like a custard cheesecake.
There are all kinds of desserts: crème brûlée, flan, crepes, mousse, yogurt, and cream puffs. And something they call "plant pot ice cream," with ice cream in a pot that you eat with a cute little shovel.
Initially, the only coffee they'll offer is Vietnamese coffee, but they'll expand with more coffee and espresso drinks once they get off the ground. "When we open, our focus will be on tea," he says.
They've invested plenty in the decor, with natural materials like wood and brick to give personality and charm to what is a storefront in a strip mall. And they're using glass and ceramic cups, not plastic.
The name is not a day or an anniversary, but it does have a meaning, Hong says.
"The 1 next to the 1 means 'only one,'" he says. "The 0 means 'no.' The 2 means second. So that means, 'No. 1 no second.' We're saying we are unique, we are one of a kind."