And pho it goes: One door closes, another opens

First, the bad news.  Pho 99, the excellent little pho shop in Alameda Square -- the plaza now being torn down to make room for an enormous hardware store -- has closed. I wrote lovingly about this place in a glowing review last year (one that had everything to do with dental work, painkillers and my absolute refusal to pay common-sense attention to any doctor's orders), and was on the verge of giving it a Best of Denver 2009 award for its do-it-yourself shrimp cake roll-ups when I learned that it had been shuttered. Even worse, there's no word forthcoming on whether it's going to reopen. I called Pho 99's former phone number, and it did nothing but ring and ring and ring.

This is a big loss for those of us in Denver who could not live without the occasional infusion of Vietnamese soup. But nature (and the Denver restaurant scene) seems to have a way of balancing out such hammer blows with good news. In this case,it comes in the form of Tom Bird finally opening a second location of his Pho Fusion operation. I've written about the original Pho Fusion several times: It's a place that I like a lot despite the fact that Bird willfully mixes several different Asian cuisines together into one mutt menu.

In fact, I've always said that all Bird needs to do is go all Chipotle with his fast-casual fusion concept and open about thirty more locations, quick.

While one new outlet -- in five years! -- is not the same as a world-beating rush toward market domination, it is certainly better than nothing. The new spot has been open at 4802 West 38th Avenue (the former home of Jade Cafe, and in an excellent neighborhood for what Bird's cooks are slingin') for about a month, and is serving the same pan-Asian board as Bird's original location.

The funny thing? I was at a bar a couple of days ago with a few neighborhood gastronauts.  And after a few rounds and a few arguments (about sushi, organic meats and local markets), talk turned, as it often does, to what neighborhood is in need of what restaurant. The overwhelming consensus? A pho shop in Highland. Here's hoping that Bird and his crew can take advantage of that need, fill all those empty tummies and move on quickly to shop #3.

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