Soon after Vietnamese restaurant Pho Bac shuttered in December, regulars began fretting about the message on the door: “We will be temporarily closed for equipment upgrades to meet the Fire Department’s standards.”
“It breaks my heart ... ” a Yelp reviewer wrote in January.
“Do they have plans to open again?” Statesman reader David Bell asked in a recent email. “It’s the best pho broth around (and the broth is where it’s at), lovingly made by some of the nicest people around.”
More than four months after closing, the return of Pho Bac, 7700 W. Goddard Road, does not look likely — but it is not outside the realm of possibility.
Owner Anne Nguyen, the mom-and-pop restaurant’s friendly face, would like to reopen, she said.
“I miss my customers a lot,” Nguyen explained by phone. “They are so sweet.”
But she can’t find a cook. Restaurants throughout Boise are struggling to hire employees during the pandemic.
“I do all the soup,” explained Nguyen, who also waits on tables, washes dishes and interacts with patrons. “We have a lot of stuff. I can’t do it by myself.”
Opened in 2011, Pho Bac became a near-institution for authentic pho in the Treasure Valley. Yelp reviewers called it a “gem.” They praised Nguyen’s warm “mom vibe” — a beloved aspect of the family-style experience. “If it’s busy, she may be a little frantic,” one reviewer wrote, “but she’s very sweet and the food is absolutely worth it.”
Troubles arose in late 2020. A Boise Fire Department inspection revealed “life safety concerns with nonpermitted propane and electrical work as well as other violations,” spokesperson Haley Williams said.
The Fire Department temporarily closed the restaurant, Williams said in an email, while immediate concerns were addressed. A plan soon was put in place for Pho Bac to reopen while other fixes were completed. Unfortunately, in the meantime, Pho Bac’s cook went to work elsewhere, Nguyen said.
Nguyen has been approached about potentially selling the building. And the family has been in contact with a real estate agent. But selling would mean giving up what Nguyen loves: handing steaming bowls of pho, tasty egg rolls and delicious stir fry to grateful customers.
“I miss them a lot,” she said. “I miss them a lot. ... If I find someone to work for me, I want to open again.”