Wondering What Happened at Pho Colonial Downtown Yesterday? A Chronlogical Account (and UPDATE from the Owner).

Let me open  by saying that I love Pho Colonial‘s pho. I love it so much that I was willing to walk six blocks downtown in 104-degree heat yesterday to get some on opening day. But, at the risk of sounding … oh screw it, I don’t care…the opening day their Downtown location yesterday felt like being inexorably stuck in a Hanoi traffic jam. Here’s how it went down:

Noon-ish—Krista, Laura, and I walked in a little after noon. The dining room was full (with two or three vacant tables) and there were seven people in line in front of us. A handful of people waited against the front window. Not bad. We made it to the counter in 5-10 minutes, placed our orders for take-out pho, rice, spring rolls, and bubble tea, received out numbers and proceeded to the dining room to wait. I overheard a young woman saying to the expediter that she’d been waiting for 45 minutes and she needed to get back to work. I chose to ignore it. I’d been in the day before for the media opening and the food was so good that, just 24 hours later, was Jonesing for more pho.

jump to read more about the Pho cluster-cuss…

12:45— A server came to the table and explained that they had run our of tapioca for the bubble tea. He set down a to-go cup of what looked like a vanilla smoothie in front of a crestfallen Krista (a certified bubble tea junkie).

12:55—Another server arrived with my pho. I reminded him that I needed it in a to-go container. He mumbled something about the kitchen messing up again, and retreated, looking as if he had promised himself he wasn’t going to cry. I never saw that pho again.

1:15—Krista approached the counter like a woman on a mission. (Trust me, she may look like an Amish milkmaid, but she’s been known to give street cops a dressing down.) She returned, reporting that the kitchen seemed to be moving tickets of squeaky wheels to the front of the line. Sure enough, two women who’d arrived just minutes earlier received their food. Then two men. Meanwhile, we and five other tables waited in bored disbelief.

1:30—This time, I went up to the kitchen. A few stragglers still leaned against the front window, fanning themselves with their numbers. The dining room was now fairly well cleared out but the kitchen staff was still working like a house afire. Our tickets remained in limbo somewhere. I was sent back to the table with a complementary cold drink.

1:40— Krista jumped ship and went back to work. I tried to get a refund for my own bubble tea/smoothie (which had never arrived). The very sweet (and clearly dehydrated) gal behind the counter encouraged me to try a Vietnamese iced tea instead. Optimistically, I asked for it in a to-go cup. Naturally, I received in it a glass. They transferred in a to-go cop. The to-go cup was half the size.

1:50—Laura joined me at the counter. We glared. A lot. Still lots of activity inside the open kitchen even though we were two of only about 15 people left. What came next for us: lots of haggling about missing items, lots of bag rearranging, but not a lot of apologizing. A couple more cold drinks.

2:00—When we walked out with our food, it was an entirely different segment of the day from when we’d gone in. I was way late for a 2:00 meeting. The meeting lasted until 4:00. $15 worth of pho and spring rolls sat neglected on my desk. I packed it back up and drove home to (I am not kidding here) regrout my shower before dinner.

6:00— Ate my lunch pho for dinner. Enjoyed the hell out of it. Really and truly. I would eat Khanh’s pho every single day if I could. It’s that good. I just wouldn’t wait two hours for it.

The line was never that long, and the dining room was full, but not overflowing. So here is my question: What the hell were they doing in the kitchen all that time? There was so much stress and activity, but no one seemed to be receiving any actual food. The more concerning question is, how do they expect to service the downtown lunch crowd?

Khanh’s PR rep told me that they were very upset about how things went down yesterday and have figured out what they need to do to fix it. Personally, I’m going to give them a week or so to work out the kinks. By no means will we stop going. But next time we’re taking advantage of their call ahead pick-up window or their delivery service. After all, we’ve got deadlines to meet up here. We can’t be pho-king around all afternoon waiting for our lunch.

Just heard from owner Khanh Dao with this UPDATE:

We were set back initially by some mechanical issues in the kitchen which definitely affected our ability to get the food out efficiently. Secondly we did not anticipate such a huge number of people showing up for lunch at the very same time. All of our food is prepared fresh and grilled to order. Starting today, we will be prepping sandwiches, spring rolls and salads prior to lunch to save time. Today we tripled our kitchen, servers and counter staff and executed even more downtown lunch-goers and to-go orders quickly and to great satisfaction. I am very proud of the team and appreciate all of the support from downtown Dallas. We are so excited to have our doors open in the neighborhood.

In case you were a bit warm yesterday that has been fixed too. The AC didn’t seem to keep up with the heat coming from the kitchen. Alas, the repairman has fixed the AC issues and the windows have been tinted to keep out the radiant heat, so today was much cooler as well.

14 comments on “Wondering What Happened at Pho Colonial Downtown Yesterday? A Chronlogical Account (and UPDATE from the Owner).

  1. I’m surprised on your first day review, what foodie goes to a first day opening of a restaurant? Give them a break.

  2. If enough people “by no means” stop going, how are they incented to make changes?

  3. @Kgun This is not a review, it’s a recounting from the POV of three downtown, working gals who went out to lunch. Big difference.

    @Lee The management was acutely aware of the problem. I feel confident that they are making plans to fix it. I don’t think withholding business is the solution. Now, if the food had been bad…

  4. Pho Colonial probably should have done a soft opening instead of announcing its opening day. Seems as if they were overwhelmed by the public response. The other location always has great service.

  5. Which begs the question. What is the difference between a “review” and a “recounting” these days? I mean with blogs, twitter, yelp, facebook, etc… It seems the average person doesn’t know the big difference.

  6. Right on JB. There is no difference. This nothing more then a bunch of “foodie” nonsense. People who so badly want to be part of something they neither have the talent or guts to do themselves. I eat out a lot so I know what Im talking about. So your food took a long time to get on the first day. Get over it.

  7. Sorry, I meant to say “It’s the I eat out a lot so I know what I’m talking about mentality”. For a more professional take on the opening I suggest Kim Pierce over at EATS.

  8. I actually live closer to the downtown store than their Frankford outpost but, I don’t mind the 10 minute drive up the tollway to their Frankford location. The food is delicious and comes out so fast, it will be in front of you before you can whip out your iPhone. And, the place is never terribly crowded.

  9. I happened to be waiting for my food at the same time. These three women were certainly more demanding than everyone else who was waiting.

  10. I was in today to pick up a call in order to go. There was a little confusion and maybe a 10 minute wait. Not bad for day two, I’d say. And the food was delicous!! I’m so excited that they are open so close to my office. It’ll be a long time before I’ve even scraped the surface of that extensive menu. Finally, something interesting to eat while I’m at work!

  11. To the reviewer, or “recounter,” why are you freaking out over some opening day confusion. If it’s still like this in a couple of months, well, ok…but seriously, this is ridiculous. I am with Owen…go check out Kim Pierce’s take on the eats blog.

  12. I went with Margie and totally agree. I went back Friday evening since I live downtown and they were closed. SAD. Anywho I quickly heard from Khanh and she said dinner will start on the 18th. CANT WAIT!!