About 30 people make up Helen Nguyen’s immediate family, and they all live in north Spokane within five minutes of her parents.
That closeness was something Nguyen missed when she and her husband spent a year and a half in Los Angeles. When they returned to Spokane, Nguyen saw an opportunity to go into the restaurant business, something she had wanted to do after working as a banker and business account executive.
So she opened Pho City, a Vietnamese restaurant, downtown in mid-June with her older brother Thu. Nguyen runs the front of the house while Thu whips up the food as head chef, and the rest of the family pitches in too. Nguyen’s nephew works as a waiter, her younger brother did the restaurant’s interior design and a lot of the sauce recipes are her mom’s.
“Pretty much it’s a whole family effort in creating this restaurant,” says Nguyen, who grew up in Vietnam and moved to America 18 years ago, landing here with her parents. About a year ago, her older brother and his family arrived, bringing over Pho City’s recipes from Vietnam..
On the menu, there is of course the pho ($8-$9), Choose from chicken or beef, both served with a plate of bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro and hoisin and Sriracha sauce that you can add to your pho as you wish. For the beef pho, choose from beef, meatball, tendon and tripe to fill your sizble bowl of beef broth.
For a lighter choice, the spring rolls ($4) literally burst with freshness in your mouth. Pork and shrimp (or tofu) wrapped in thin rice paper, with vermicelli noodles and a hint of mint and basil, are served with a thick, housemade peanut sauce for dipping. A popular breakfast item in Vietnam, the bánh mì grilled pork sandwich ($4) with carrots and other vegetables comes on a baguette.
The short list of menu items is all under $10, with the exception of the Pho City special ($12) — a salad-like mixture of vermicelli, vegetables, deep-fried egg rolls and grilled pork, beef and prawns, flavored with sweetened fish sauce.
Be sure to try the Vietnamese drip coffee ($3.50). A small metal drip contraption makes the coffee right in your glass at your table. Add ice for extra refreshment.
Pho City • 112 N. Howard St. • Mon-Sat, 11 am-8 pm • 747-0223 • phocity509.com