Upscale Vietnamese restaurant opening in South Hill soon
When Hello Pho Vietnamese Street Food and Bar opens in South Hill at 16116 Meridian Ave. E., it will bring with it an upscale style of Vietnamese cuisine currently in short supply in South Hill’s dining landscape.
Think of Hello, Pho as something like the former Pho The Best, the higher-end Southeastern Asian restaurant that opened in 2011 and closed about three years ago in South Hill. Boiling Crawfish operates in that space now and has carried over many of the stylish elements of the former Pho The Best, but it’s no pho shop. Boiling Crawfish is a Cajun-Vietnamese seafood boil restaurant.
As every South Hill diner will attest, there are a lot of culinary gaps in South Hill’s dining landscape. Pho destinations are somewhat of a rarity with just two soup shops serving the community from Puyallup to Graham along Meridian (conversely, there are four McDonald’s along that same stretch). It’s Pho U is located near South HIll Mall on Meridian and Pho Tai is at 131st and Meridian.
“When people go to Pho Tai, they eat and go quickly, but at my restaurant, you sit and enjoy your meal. You enjoy your time over the food. It’s the same content of food on the menu, but different eating style,” said Hello Pho owner Thanh Nguyen.
A BACKGROUND IN COOKING PHO
He’s no stranger to working in pho restaurants. Earlier in his career, he worked at Pho King, the celebrated pho shop in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood with some of the city’s best bowls of Vietnamese noodle soups outside the Lincoln District. In recent years, he detoured to nail salons. His family owns PD Nails in Graham. That’s how he knew there was a shortage of Vietnamese restaurants in that stretch of Pierce County.
“A lot of customers ask me, they love pho and they’re crazy for pho, but they say there aren’t many places here to get it,” said Nguyen. So his family got to work. His brother is working on opening a pho restaurant in Graham in a strip mall near where PD Nails is located, but that’s a long project in the works with months of construction ahead.
Nguyen expects Hello, Pho, which he has been working on for more than a year, should be open this fall. If he’s lucky, it might even open in October.
THE INTERIOR OF HELLO PHO
The interior is, as Nguyen described, as stylish as Tacoma’s Saigon House, which opened in 2020 with a menu of higher-end Vietnamese dishes. Like Saigon House, the focus is on inviting customers to stick around and savor their meal.
He described an open dining room concept with tables for small and large groups and visually interesting decor, such as a full-sized Vietnamese canoe he said visitors can sit in and use for a selfie snap. He also described regional artwork from all corners of Vietnam and bicycles and other fanciful decorations that descend from the ceiling. He hopes that will further help him create an Insta-ready dining room.
THE MENU AT THE NEW SPOT
The menu itself will include what many Vietnamese restaurants offer: the full gamut of pho, vermicelli salad bowls, banh mi sandwiches, rice plates and more.
What will differ is the type and quality of ingredients and pretty plating, said Nguyen.
For instance, instead of cheaper round steak in the pho, he’s substituting tenderloin. “We use quality meats and spend more money on the steak. What you taste in the bowl, it’s really soft and juicy. It’s a noticeable difference instead of chewy, dry meat,” he said.
He thinks diners will appreciate his street food, including spring rolls made with a house dipping sauce that’s different from the typical fresh roll accompaniment. He’s also predicting his Vietnamese chicken wings will be a big seller. He described banh mi sandwiches made in the more traditional Vietnamese style, with a swipe of pâté.
And cocktails. He’ll have cocktails. However, he said the specialty cocktails will likely come after the opening sometime as he works on making sure he has the food down before he expands to specialty drinks.
As for the other elements, he said that the restaurant will be family friendly with a children’s menu and accessories for kids. He also intends to cater to vegetarian and vegan diners with several dishes skipping all animal products.
I’ll let you know when I hear of an opening date.
HELLO PHO VIETNAMESE STREET FOOD AND BAR
Where: 16116 Meridian Ave. E., Puyallup
MORE SOUTH HILL DINING NEWS
Trapper’s Sushi is on the move. The South Hill restaurant in Sunrise Village will move later this year to a new location in the Sunrise Village complex where The Ram used to operate. Read more here.
Mix Poke Bar and Sip + Spoon also are opening in South Hill. The restaurants currently operate at Tacoma Mall and will be expanding to South Hill’s Sunrise Village. Read more here.
Roadhouse in South Hill just closed and is on the move. The longtime South Hill bar is moving two miles south to a new location. Read more here. In nearby Graham, the Flying Tomato closed its doors, but it found a new home in Spanaway. Read more here.