The patio faces West Main Street.
Charlottesville diners jonesing for a pho fix can rest easy– as Zinc owner Vu Nguyen opened the doors of Moto Pho Co. today, Wednesday August 1. Open for lunch and dinner, the new spot features the hard-to-make-at-home Vietnamese beef and noodle soup for $6.95 and $7.95 per bowl ($1 extra for ox tail). And yes, the restaurant’s name is playing on the expletive that comes to mind (as well as Momofuku, the nouveau-Korean cuisine stylings of celebrity chef David Chang).
“I liked the idea of the name because it rolls off the tongue, and it sounds like motherf*****,” says a smiling Nguyen.
In what was until recently an auto repair shop, Moto Pho Co. is located at 511 West Main Street across the street from Zinc, whose trendy décor and enthusiastic staff seem to have been transplanted seamlessly to the new restaurant. While such restaurants as Saigon Café and Lemongrass make occasional forays into the dish, Moto Pho Co. is Charlottesville’s first eatery focused almost entirely on pho.
Nguyen described the restaurant’s first lunch shift as hectic, with about 70 customers stopping by to see what all the fuss was about.
“It turned out better than I thought it was going to be, but I still thought there could have been more people,” says Nguyen. “On Monday we had a free day, and we did 150 people in three hours.”
(On Monday, Moto Pho Co. ran a promotion of free pho in exchange for customer feedback on the menu, which in addition to the savory steaming bowls, also offers a selection of pan-Asian side items like pork buns, edamame, and garden rolls.)
Nguyen points to Northern Virginia powerhouse pho cookeries like Pho 75 as his inspiration— with wide communal tables, a simple menu, and lots of soup cooking in the kitchen to keep wait times alarmingly low. He notes however that while most pho-centric places push customers to order at a counter and wait for their soup, Moto Pho Co.’s servers will take diners’ orders as they sit inside the restaurant or out on the patio.
In the months leading up to the grand opening, Nguyen got some recipe tips from his aunt who runs a noodle shop in Vietnam.
“The Pho is different there,” says Nguyen. “So it’s funny when people say whether or not this is authentic enough. What are you trying to compare it to? If you’re talking about Vietnam, there’s nothing here that’s the same over there."