Yenvy Pham articulates pho puns without intending to. She really wants to make sure the new speakeasy-style cocktail bar her family is opening downtown isn’t pho-gettable—“oh my gosh, I really did not mean to do that.”
It’s easy to understand her excitement, and why pho permeates her subconcious. Pham is part of the second-generation ownership of Pho Bac; her family will soon debut a new downtown location of Seattle’s original pho shop at 1923 Seventh Avenue, across from the U.S. District Courthouse. Upstairs, a tucked-away bar known as Phocific Standard Time will serve “whimsical, Vietnamese-style cocktails.” Noodle soup is an obvious lunchtime hit as office workers return to the nearby high rises, but great bars remain weirdly scarce around here. Yenvy, who has her hands in everything from pho to coffee, seems like just the force to remedy that.
The Phams are preparing some new items at ground level too. Quynh Pham will spearhead a baking program, preparing baguettes in-house for a handful of banh mi—moist, airy, and crackling on the outside. “It looks like, and tastes like Vietnam, how we always eat it back at home,” says Yenvy. They will fill the inside with tofu or a take on a traditional meatball banh mi that fills those pork balls with egg yolks cured in pho aromatics. Yenvy’s especially excited about the third banh mi filling, pork shoulder wrapped inside a banana leaf that’s been braised in pho fat.
Pho Bac downtown will also serve a classic pate chaud (plus a vegetarian mushroom version) and, of course, the noodle soups. Diners can sit along a counter and watch the pho and dry noodle assembly happening inside the kitchen. But clearly downtown means takeout. Since packaging all the elements of pho separately is “kind of clumsy,” Yenvy sourced some specially designed takeout cups (sleek, compostable, legitimately stylish) with a special compartment inside to hold bean sprouts and basil.
Fans of Pho Bac Sup Shop, might connect the bar’s name to the neon “Phocific Northwest” sign that glows (and compels Instagrammage) over at the mothership restaurant in Little Saigon. The term originated with Yenvy and Quynh’s brother Khoa, who passed away suddenly in April.
“He really wanted to do this,” says Yenvy of the bar. “It was supposed to be kind of under the radar,” thus Phocific Standard Time’s acronym, the thing you say when you're about to divulge a secret. “It’s kind of an homage to him.”
This is Pho Bac’s third downtown iteration; redevelopment felled the location by the former Greyhound Station years ago; the pandemic came for the restaurant on Minor. "We always want Pho Bac to stay downtown," says Yenvy. The new outpost is just a few dramatically altered blocks away from the first one.
The new Pho Bac should open in mid-June, but we’ll have to wait until the end of summer for its upstairs counterpart. Phocific Standard Time will serve drinks in the mezzanine, obscured by large shutters. The bar will take its time crafting drinks for the occupants of just 20 seats. “It’s going to be really playful,” promises Yenvy. She also promises beer, but likely no wine, in honor of Le Caviste, the excellent wine bar next door. "We're there a lot. Like, a lot." Owner David Butler was the one who tipped her off to the space.
Instagram already offers peeks of a handsome blue bar and minimalist palm tree motif up here—the vibe a welcome addition to the limited number of bars in this pocket of downtown. Drinkers will be able to get that pate chaud and those “pho cups.” Say that a few times fast—I told you Yenvy has a way with inadvertent pho puns.
Keep tabs on Pho Bac’s Instagram for updates.