Before the partners in Pho Ba Luu got started renovating the Butchertown building that now houses their restaurant, words like “dump” and “disaster” could have been used to describe the former mechanic’s shop. For the lucky group with invites to last night’s soft opening, the raves about what’s been done to the place indicate that the Vietnamese-style eatery could be as big a hit as the South End’s Vietnam Kitchen, a favorite of local foodies.
Let’s start with the look and feel — there’s a polished concrete floor, attractive bar area, wood-finished ceiling, an open kitchen stocked with state-of-the-art stainless, all leading to an oasis of a back patio perfect for live entertainment, and which will be a main feature of the spot. A retractable garage door and concrete block walls provide evidence of its mechanic-shop history.
The concept is the vision of Stewart Davis and his fiancee Jessica Mach. I spoke to Davis briefly, who passed all credit for food and design to Mach, whose family heritage gave birth to the name and menu. Pho is the word for Vietnamese soup, while Ba translates to Mrs. and Luu is a family name.
Having never experienced Vietnamese cuisine, I opted for the safer sounding Noodle Bowl, with Chicken, served with a sweet sauce. My dining companion, Mark Prussian, tried the Pho and loved it. He was especially happy to see the addition of a restaurant here, and a part of the city neglected by restaurateurs. He owns the Eye Care Institute, just down Story Avenue. I want to come back and try the Banh Mi.
More businesses are on the way to the spot where Story turns into Main Street, including a furniture store, a donut shop and coffee shop, all of which could be open by the end of the year.