Irvine’s favorite bespoke coffee cafe 

As a child, Mai Tran loved to shop and dine with family and friends at Irvine Spectrum Center and The Market Place.

Today, she and her family own a thriving small business – Blk Dot coffee – at both locations. 

“It is just an amazing opportunity to be there, to be at a place where we grew up and to have a coffee brand there,” Tran says.

The beverages she serves have a special twist, inspired by bold and highly caffeinated coffee from Vietnam that is brewed with a traditional metal drip filter, called a “phin.”  Yelpers rave about the strong coffee drinks, exotic beverages, including passion fruit green tea, and trendy breakfast and lunch fare such as croissants and avocado toast.

“We wanted to bring the tradition of Vietnamese coffee, but we did our own spin on it, and we wanted to share that with more and more communities and more and more people,” Tran says. “Our take on it has definitely put us on the map.”

The family that brews together

Tran’s parents were immigrants and restaurant-business entrepreneurs who arrived in the United States without speaking any English. Their children emulated their work ethic, Tran says.

The first Blk Dot coffee house opened at the Google offices on Jamboree Road, in 2015, around the same time Tran’s family opened Twenty Eight restaurant and lounge nearby. Trainers from the nearby Equinox gym would buy coffee for their clients to rev up their workouts.

“The response was great, and our customers encouraged us to expand,” she says. 

That led to the Spectrum and MarketPlace locations, with additional sites on Irvine’s Von Karman Avenue and in Long Beach, Orange and Laguna Beach.

Within the next year, the Trans plan to expand even further, opening four or five more locations in Orange County. 

“Our plan is to share our love for coffee with more communities,” Tran says. 

Still, no matter how far from Irvine Blk Dot travels, Tran says: “This city will always have a special place in our hearts. We are so thankful for the community and our customers.”