Cafe Society

Pho-natic opens on East Colfax to fanatical crowds

The last time I spoke with Nhanh Tran, the co-owner of Pho-natic, he described his mother, Oi Nguyen, as the "most generous woman in the world." She's renowned for giving away food to friends and family, 500 egg rolls at a time, he told me.

And this morning, between 10 a.m. and noon, Nguyen handed out 500 complimentary egg rolls and other 500 free spring rolls to customers who stepped inside her bright Vietnamese pho shop, which opened this morning at 7 a.m. at 229 East Colfax Avenue. "We started serving lunch at 10 a.m., and by noon, my mom had given away 1,000 rolls to a lot of happy people," says Tran, who was hopping from table to table earlier this afternoon when I stopped by to check out the space.

"We opened today, because it's the last day of the Chinese lunar calendar, and that's my mom's lucky day," explains Tran. "We thought -- we really hoped -- we'd be busy, and boy, we're we slammed. But honestly, we haven't heard one complaint. Everyone is leaving with a smile on their face." That included two men who stopped Tran on their way out the door to slap him on the back and compliment Nguyen's pho. "That was awesome, man; it sure beats a cheeseburger," proclaimed one. They left, assuring Tran that they'd be back soon. One last slap on the back: "Really good job, man." The serene dining rooms are still a work in progress -- the walls, tinted soft shades of green, have yet to be mounted with artwork -- but the joint was buzzing with tables of two, five and ten popping spring rolls past their lips and slurping noodles from huge bowls of smoldering, anise-scented broth, accompanied by dunes of glistening Asian greens, verdant lime wedges and bands of jalapeños. "So many people who have come through the doors today have told us that they're incredibly excited to finally have pho downtown," says Tran. "We rocked and we rolled today, and tomorrow will be even better."

Pho-natic is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more info, call 303-832-3154.