Pho Bar & Grill held its grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 15, with a crowd assembled at the corner bar and Asian restaurant in the Batdorf Building for the 11 a.m. opening of its doors.
The restaurant is an upstart venture jointly run by four friends: Lux Chhen (bar manager/owner), Mackara Chhen (manager), Thanh Thach (head chef/owner), and
Koy Loeung (manager).
When LebTown spoke with Lux Chhen just before doors swung open to customers for the grand opening, Chhen said he was feeling good about everything, with many months of preparation behind him.
Nearly the entire 103 W. Main St. space was updated, he said, including the floor and ceiling.
Most recently, Ted’s of Annville operated a bar and grill in the space. The building got its name from Batdorf Department Store, which was once housed here. It was also the original location of Rotunda (at the time known as the Batdorf).
Chhen said he’s a history buff and has started digging into its history, aided by the digital archive maintained by Friends of Old Annville.
The Pho Bar & Grill menu includes a range of appetizers (beef carpaccio, beef and chicken skewers, butterfly shrimp, etc), rice platters (bulgogi beef and grilled pork), and entrees (shrimp fried rice and pad thai).
There are also a few specialties (see below) and an array of tea and drink options such as boba (aka bubble) tea and Vietnamese-style French coffee.
Chhen said that the menu will be dynamic and street food focused. It’s starting small as they get up and running, but Chhen expects the menu to grow monthly as the kitchen gets more comfortable.
“Almost like a Chicago-style pizza compared to New York-style pizza. At the end of the day, the ingredients are the same and how you put it together is different.”
If you prefer a sandwich, then Pho Bar & Grill has you covered with its banh mi, one of many Vietnamese and Cambodian dishes that reflect the region’s French ties – with a crunchy baguette serving as the carrier for delicious deli meats, pate, and fresh veggies.
For the pho at Pho Bar & Grill, the two main ingredients are beef and time. It’s a two-day process to simmer the beef long enough that it has the high-octane umami flavor pho is known for. It also smells great thanks to the star anise and cinnamon.
Cambodian and Vietnamese street food were a starting point for thinking about the menu, but they are going to limit theirselves to just that.
A good example of this would be Chhen’s other favorite item on the menu, the Korean chicken, which was inspired by his time in Philly.
“We think it’s unique to this area, and wings is a universal language,” said Chhen. “Everybody loves wings.”
Chhen said that he’s still looking for a handful more staff members, but he’s been very thankful to friends and family for helping out as he gets up and running.
The reception in Annville has been great, too, said Chhen.
Pho Bar & Grill is set up with a dozen beers on draft, including Troegs, with more local and speciality options on the way – think sake bombs, maybe a Sapporo or Tiger on draft, stuff that you can find in bigger cities but not typically around here.
Mackara Chhen said the partners want to keep Pho Bar & Grill as local as possible.
Lux Chhen said although the food isn’t new to him or the other partners, they are relatively new as a group to the restaurant industry.
“We’re trying to grow slowly, but consistently,” said Chhen.
The restaurant is opened from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day but Tuesday. Reservations are not currently being taken, but expect that to change in the near future. Find more information at PhoBarAndGrill.com, or on Facebook.
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