AP NEWS
Related topics

Yelp-listed pho spot brings Bellaire flavors to Lake Houston

February 5, 2019

Pho Dien 1960 will let diners know that Tet, or Lunar New Year, is here with flower displays, holiday songs, luck totems, and the gift of food.

On Jan. 8, however, it was the Pho Dien’s turn to be gifted. In the latest version of its Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. list, Yelp ranked Pho Dien 1960 at 58th, making it one of five Houston-based eateries that impressed enough visitors to gain “the status of ‘must try this year.’”

Ly Minh Bao Quynh, Pho Dien 1960’s owner, was ecstatic when he found out. The store will have its first anniversary on March 10.

What Quynh’s mother, Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, loved most about the place is how it could let people visit another culture by way of cuisine. Although retired, Van, and husband Pham An Da, are a regular presence at the restaurant — she’s the cashier, he’s one of the waiters.

“Although we could go exercise or do charity work, we’d like to help our son since the restaurant is still new,” Van said. “If it gets crowded, (Da) can help greet customers, say a thing or two. I may help the young staff set the tables, too.”

She added that Da’s main job is to guide diners, which would mainly be non-Asians, she observed, to the right way of enjoying pho. Van said he’d give the regular tip of tasting the broth first — as is — before cueing the condiments such as hoisin sauce, satay or Sriracha.

On the restaurant’s Yelp page, “older gentleman” is listed as one of the three notable features.

“The service I received is the big winner here,” wrote user Shawn P. from Humble in his review in April.

Van credited Pham Cong Dien, whose name is also on the restaurant, for being around when everything started. The Humble spot is the second Pho Dien in Houston, the other is at Bellaire and Kirkwood.

“He always helps other people,” Van said. “Technically he’s a brother-in-law, but to us he’s much more than that.”

Dien has owned his brand for seven years now; Bellaire-area frequenters would be no stranger to his original restaurant once-located in Kim Son Plaza. Of the Humble store, he said he is happy with its current direction.

“For me, when we open a restaurant that has a strong sense of family, we will gain a lot of trust from the surrounding communities,” Dien said. “I could open a location anywhere — I’m adaptable — and in any business decision passion always must be placed first. We show our passion through ingredients of quality. Diners are very sharp, especially Vietnamese who often go grocery shopping, so they’ll know which is fresh.”

Dien added that he might extend his brand to Austin and Dallas and become a consultant for the franchise owner.

“That person will be the lucky one, and I used ‘lucky’ because I will be guiding them from A to Z — just like a master I once knew,” he said, referring to a Hong Kong chef who taught him the trade while living in Colorado.

Pho Dien’s official website is phodienhouston.webs.com. Pho Dien 1960, opens seven days at 9 a.m., also accepts to-go orders at 281-973-8868.

nguyen.le@chron.com