Seattle restaurant owners have taken some unique steps to adapt to Covid-19 restrictions, from selling takeout cocktail kits to rebranding as neighborhood markets. But Khoa Pham never could have known that Pho Bac’s efforts to drum up business would land him on the wrong side of the law.
After governor Jay Inslee shut down in-house service on March 16, Pham and his sibling co-owners decided to revamp an out-of-commission meter maid vehicle, purchased at auction and mostly used at parades, for use as a “Pho Mobile.” If you’re within about three miles of the red boat on Jackson Street, Pho Bac will deliver soup—”Pho Now,” prepared, or “Pho Later,” a disassembled version—right to your door. Be patient, though—this little guy can only go up to around 35 mph.
All proceeds from Pho Mobile orders are split evenly between a fund for restaurants and other small businesses in the C–ID and International Community Health Services, a nonprofit community clinic where Pham’s sister UyenVy works as a family care doctor. So far, the restaurant has raised over $5000.
But not everyone's on board with the inventive delivery method. A test drive around South Lake Union led Pham into a low-speed chase with an actual parking enforcement officer, who, Pham says, snapped a photo and reported the vehicle on the grounds that the police-inspired emblem and “Seattle Pho Dept.” spray-painted on its back bumper made it look too similar to an official Seattle pholice car (Pham’s words, officer, not mine). “I was puzzled that she wasn’t going to report me for my expired tabs,” Pham joked in an Instagram post.
If you’re out of Pho Mobile range, takeout orders are accepted at all locations, including the newly renovated Rainier Valley boat.
“Every day has really been like opening a new restaurant,” says co-owner Yenvy Pham. “Every day has been different.”