Inside the last outpost of Pho’s “first family” in Seattle


It’s one of Seattle’s most ubiquitous dishes. Part of the very fabric of the city’s food culture.

“Everyone eats pho. Everyone eats pho when they’re sick, or when they want something comforting or really have a hangover. It transcends everywhere,” said Yenvy Pham, co-owner of Pho Bac Sup Shop, located in the heart of Seattle’s Little Saigon neighborhood.

Pham is part of what may well be Seattle’s first pho family. His parents opened the original Pho Bac in 1982, at the time it was the first restaurant in this now prosperous neighborhood.

“On the weekends, the whole Vietnamese community would come to church or the grocery store and they wanted something from home. So my mom started doing pho on weekends, then it took off,” Pham explained.

Now there are several Pho Bac outposts in the city, but at Sup Shop, Yenvy and his siblings wanted to create a more modern space.

“I always call us the Costco du pho because everyone comes here. We don’t really have a niche of customers,” Pham said with a laugh. “It kind of encompasses everything. You can have quick meals, inside and out, or you can just relax, have a beer or a cocktail and just bounce back. It’s a first date. really cheap.”

While the vibe is fun and welcoming, Sup Shop’s goal is to maintain the integrity of the family’s recipes. There is a specific aspect of pho that keeps guests coming back.

“It’s the broth. It’s liquid gold. You know you have a good broth when it has that beautiful golden color,” Pham explained. “It really is labor intensive work. It’s a lot of marrow, a lot of bone and making sure everything is cooked slowly and without shortcuts. There is no shortcut to make a very good broth. “

This beautiful broth is the staple of Sup Shop favorites like Instagram-worthy Rib Pho and classics like steak or brisket.

“Vietnamese cuisine, we all want to touch every flavor in your mouth,” Pham said. “That’s why I want, when people first taste it [the pho]it hits all the notes in your mouth and you are just completely satisfied with what you eat. It’s a very good feeling. “

These good feelings do not only come from the food, but also from the family atmosphere of this restaurant. More often than not, you will find Yenvy or her sister, Quynh, working in the restaurant. But, it was their brother, Khoa, who truly embodied the spirit of Sup Shop.

“My brother was very inspiring, [he was a] very creative thinker, very off the beaten track and we all kind of have that. It was really him who started the ball rolling for that [restaurant], explained Pham.

Khoa passed away suddenly in March 2021. Supporting force and community champion of Little Saigon, the city of Seattle declared April 21, his birthday, Khoa Pham Day.

“He was very distinct. You meet him, you don’t forget the guy,” Pham recalls. “He could talk to anyone and find out what they like to do and talk to them about it for hours on end. He never judged you. He was able to connect with so many different types of people at different levels and the patience he had was amazing. That’s why he was so loved. He always welcomed everyone. “

Although he is no longer there, Khoa’s presence remains, in his family, the neighborhood he loved and the restaurant.

“He’s always there and he always motivates us. We’re always very ambitious to want to do something big on his behalf and we’ll continue to do that over time.”

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