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Upscale Vietnamese Hello Pho now open in South Hill

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If you rate a restaurant based on its pickled veggies and delicious Vietnamese crepes, then Hello Pho should rise to the top of your list for South Hill dining.

The new upscale Vietnamese restaurant opened Oct. 16, 2021 in South Hill at 16116 Meridian Ave. E.

Fans of the beloved Pho Puyallup, which closed two years ago, will find plenty to like on the menu: Namely the banh xeo, a dish hard to find in South Hill, and some of the best do chua – pickled carrots and daikon – that I’ve had in South Hill since Pho Puyallup closed its doors in October 2019.

The menu and atmosphere of Hello Pho are a nice addition to South Hill, especially considering it’s tucked into the same strip mall featuring two interesting locally-owned restaurants: Charm Thai and Picazo’s Taco Zone. 

Hello Pho’s focus is on a more polished dining experience.

wings
Fried chicken wings from Hello Pho in Puyallup’s South Hill.

As owner Thanh Nguyen told me for my last article about Hello Pho opening, “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.”

That’s exactly what I found on a first-bite visit. Here’s a look at what you need to know about the menu and a tour of the interior in photos. Check it out soon!

RESTAURANT BASICS AT HELLO PHO

dining room
The dining room of Hello Pho in Puyallup.

DINING ROOM: The dining room is as handsome as the newer Saigon House in Tacoma, and it’s also tucked into a strip mall, just like Saigon House. Spoiler alert: Some of the area’s best dining gems are tucked into strip malls, which is why I launched my strip mall dining gems series a decade ago. Pendant lighting casts a lot of brightness and bicycle sculptures descend from the ceiling. A boat reminiscent of a Vietnamese river boat is placed at the front entry. As Nguyen notes, he expects that to be popular attraction for snapping a selfie. Deep booths are cushy and line the edges of the dining room. Two-and-four-top tables make up the center of the room. Tables are well-spaced and the finishes look professional. The entire vibe comes with a stay-a-little-longer feeling. You won’t feel rushed through a meal here. 

MENU: All the bases for Vietnamese classics are covered. The core menu includes pho, banh mi, combo rice plates and vermicelli salads. What I spotted on the menu was a nice surprise: banh xeo. Take a look at the menu here. The restaurant is in its soft opening phase now. Expect the menu to expand with time. 

GET THE CREPE: If I see banh xeo, a crepe, on a menu, I usually order that on a first visit to any Vietnamese restaurant. The Hello Pho crepe arrived exactly how I like mine: crispy around the edges. Vietnamese crepes are made from a rice batter, which creates lacey-textured edges with a pleasing crunch. Inside, I found broad swaths of grilled pork and crunchy bean threads. I appreciated that the crepe was served with broad leaves of romaine lettuce for building lettuce wraps. Because the romaine leaves were so wide, it was easy to pluck off a piece of the crepe and wrap it up in the lettuce with the accompanying fresh basil and pickled veggies before dipping into the fish sauce. I appreciate those kinds of details. 

As far as banh xeo goes, this was a great interpretation and I’d put it up there with Fuzion Cafe in Tacoma’s Narrows neighborhood, which used to make my favorite banh xeo in Pierce County, but it’s not on the current menu. Hong Ngov and Sean Yean put so much effort into the details of that restaurant. 

Vietnamese crepe
A Vietnamese crepe from Hello Pho in Puyallup’s South Hill.

THOSE PICKLED VEGGIES: Carrots and daikon cut into matchsticks and steeped in sweetened vinegar. Very tasty and served as a condiment on several dishes, including the banh xeo. Fans of Pho Puyallup: If you liked the pickled carrots there, you’ll love these. They’re just as puckery.

VEGANS/VEGETARIANS: The restaurant debuted its veggie-based broth a few days after opening and has quite a few menu items geared toward vegans and vegetarians. Those include: the veggie pho, the tofu spring roll, veggie eggroll, tofu sandwich, teriyaki tofu, vermicelli tofu, banh xeo tofu, yakisoba tofu and fried rice tofu.

COCKTAILS: Beer and wine on the menu now, but cocktails will come next. 

pho
Pho from Hello Pho in Puyallup’s South Hill.

ON A FIRST VISIT: Get the banh xeo, of course, but don’t sleep on the chicken wings, served with a tasty sweet chili sauce. The spring rolls were composed with more care than I’ve seen at South Hill Vietnamese spots. Tightly-wound rice paper was filled with fresh romaine, rice noodles and a generous helping of grilled pork. The dipping sauce was peanut-based and tasted something like a Thai-style peanut sauce punched with a little heat. It was a nice changeup. 

PRICING: Slightly above market for Vietnamese pho, but those prices are aligned with the atmosphere and extra care in food preparation. The experience is more upscale than your typical quick pho shop. 

spring roll
A spring roll from Hello Pho in Puyallup’s South Hill.

ABOUT THE OWNERS: Nguyen is 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.

NEXT FROM THE FAMILY: Nguyen’s 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.

ACCESSIBILITY: No barriers noted, easy access for wheelchairs and walkers – tables are well spaced.

Hello Pho
Find Hello Pho in Puyallup’s South Hill.

HELLO PHO VIETNAMESE STREET FOOD AND BAR

Where: 16116 Meridian Ave. E., Puyallup

Phone: 253-904-9490

Insta: https://www.instagram.com/hellopho_us/

LOTS 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 reopened in its new space. The longtime South Hill bar moved 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.

Bros Burgers on the way: I’m trying to get information on Bros Burgers opening in the old Quizno’s space in South Hill, but I have not received a reply from the owners. In the meantime, be sure to check out Red Wagon Burgers in South Hill, which opened last November. It’s at the top of my list for South Hill burgers along with Out and About, the food truck. If I get more info on Bros Burgers, I’ll be sure to share information.

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