Oi Nguyen and her son, Nhanh Tran, spent weeks standing outside the front door counting feet before taking the plunge. "We'd been looking for a restaurant location for more than three years, and when we found this one, we thought we had a hit, but just to make sure, we spent hours and hours watching the foot traffic go by, before deciding that it was worth a go," says Tran of Phở-natic, the new Vietnamese pho shop that his mother, Oi, is opening in August at 229 East Colfax.
The 3,000-square-foot restaurant, partitioned into several rooms and tinted different shades of jade, because, explains Tran, the colors remind his mother of "peace and tranquility," isn't Oi's first food temple in Denver. From 1993 to 1996, she owned the Chinese Dragon downtown, in the space that now houses Tarantula Billiards. When she closed the restaurant, says Tran, she turned to sewing, a skill she picked up in Vietnam, where she also learned how to cook from her grandfather, who made ends meet by selling noodle soup on the streets.
"My mom spent most of her time cooking in Vietnam until she escaped to America on a fishing boat in 1984, and when she eventually made it to Denver, she wanted to cook for the people, so she opened a restaurant," explains Tran. When it closed, she made money by sewing.
But her passion was cooking, so she made vats of pho and egg rolls by the hundreds, often giving them away to friends and family. "My mom is the most generous woman in the world, " says Tran. "She'd feed the whole world for free if she could."
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Oi will start fueling pho fans on August 15, and while it won't be for free, her prices are just slightly higher than the steaming bowls of pho you'll find on Federal. "Pho shouldn't be expensive," insists Tran. Her menu peddles 23 versions of the Vietnamese noodle soup, alongside Vietnamese noodle bowls, rice plates with grilled meats, soft shell crab and a half dozen rolls, including a spring roll with barbecued pork -- and nothing rings in at more than $9.
In addition to the lunch and dinner board, the joint will also open for breakfast, pouring Vietnamese coffee and serving Vietnamese pastries, including a pork, vegetable and egg bánh bao. And while there's no liquor license, Trans says that they'll offer upwards of a dozen Lollicup bobbas.
For more information, call 303-832-3154.