Saucy Porka To Open in Old Kaldi’s in January 2022


Photo Courtesy of Amy Le

As children, Amy and Phil Le spent most days after school at their mother’s Chinese restaurant. Greeting customers, helping out with the dishes and doing their homework in between, the siblings grew up immersed in this warm, local mom and pop food environment. Years after pursuing their own paths, the siblings will soon open a restaurant together in the very place where their love for food first began. 

Saucy Porka, the new restaurant coming to Midtown (3900 Laclede Ave) in the old Kaldi’s storefront in January 2022, is often misconceived as a pork-centered restaurant. The restaurant’s name, though, is a reflection of the cuisine and the chef’s unique personalities. Saucy refers to the marinated meats and specialty sauces, while porka is the Puerto Rican slang term for a fiery or sassy woman. Combined, these words encompass the restaurant’s essence: saucy food, created with love and so much attitude.  

Prior to developing the restaurant, Amy Le worked for the new start-up, GrubHub, as a social media content creator. As part of her job, she was constantly interacting with restaurant owners. On the side, she was also cooking for her friends’ birthdays and other events. That’s when she knew it was time for a change.

“I just realized I missed this whole thing,” Amy said. “I missed the camaraderie, I missed the cooking, I missed the speed, the stress. I just missed it all.”

Amy decided to join the food truck movement in Chicago and opened her own contemporary Vietnamese banh mi truck, her entry point back into the food industry world. But her culinary career would soon take a dramatic turn when she met former executive chef Rafael Lopez. At the time, he was also operating a food truck near Amy, and after cooking together for events, they decided to develop something new: an Asian/Latin fusion menu.

Amy and her husband, along with Lopez, opened the first Saucy Porka location in downtown Chicago in 2013, with a second location in Hyde Park in 2018. Now, after 20 years, the Le siblings will reunite in St. Louis for a third location. 

“It was always my dream and my passion,” Amy said. “Especially for my mom, because she wanted to see us come back together and work again. And I think everything was in the right moment at the right time for this to happen.”

The Chicago location served many University of Chicago students, so Amy says she feels prepared to serve the various needs of SLU students, as well. 

“No matter how much we grow, at the heart of it we’re a family restaurant, and I want to continue that,” Amy said. “I want to not only expand this growing ethnic cuisine in various communities, but also to be…[a restaurant] that has a local feel that understands the neighborhood and the people.” 

While Saucy Porka is a fast service restaurant, Amy deeply values the connection that food can create between people. She still cherishes how her mother interacted with her customers and tries to incorporate that care in her own restaurant model as well.

“When we talk about fusion, people think you can throw kimchi on a taco, and suddenly, it’s fusion,” Amy said. “But we wanted to try to [create] something that incorporated the ingredients of both cultures in a way that’s authentic. I hope people enjoy it. It is unique and different, and I think St. Louis is definitely ready for it.”