Molly Abraham: Vietnamese restaurant Pho Lucky debuts in Detroit on Woodward
In 1905, when the Addison was new, trolley cars rolled past its doors on Woodward. Next year, when the M-rail project is completed, rail traffic will be back again, coming full circle. This time it will bring diners to the new restaurant on its main floor.
Pho Lucky (pronounced fuh luke-y, and more about that later) opened last week in the midst of construction right outside its big windows. And talk about a welcome – on its very first day, a good-sized crowd managed to navigate the barriers to try the Vietnamese menu brought there by Cong Nguyen, his wife Ht, and their extended family.
Three years ago when the first Pho Lucky opened in a tiny space in Redford, Nguyen never imagined that his modest restaurant would spawn three more, first another small one in Novi, another recently in Southfield, and now a major opening in a very desirable mainstream location, but that’s exactly what’s happened.
The menu is brief and focused, adding the appealing cuisine to another neighborhood unfamiliar with it. The Nguyens don’t hedge their bets by adding American dishes. Everything on the menu is authentically Vietnamese. First, of course, is the national dish – pho tai chin bo vien to give it its exact title – better known simply as pho, a deep bowl of mildly spicy broth with thinly sliced eye round steak, beef brisket, tiny meatballs and vermicelli noodles in its depths.
A side plate brings sprigs of fresh Asian basil, a heap of bean sprouts, slices of jalapeno peppers and wedges of lime to be added to taste by each diner, and on each table in the high-ceilinged room is an array of hot sauces, paper napkins (much needed) and chopsticks.
There are a number of other pho variation, one that includes only meatballs, another with just round steak. A few other dishes, called rice plates, include grilled chicken breast or pork. The menu is short and sweet.
To start off, two appetizers, crisp little spring rolls filled with ground pork, shrimp and vegetables, and summer rolls, wrapped in rice paper and filled with shrimp, pork and rice noodles and served cold, are highly recommended. Each comes with a dipping sauce, Vietnamese garlic with the spring rolls, hoisin peanut sauce with the summer rolls.
The space previously housed the Addison Eatery, and before that Atlas Global Bistro, and it has a number of seating arrangements including an appealing corner furnished with rough-hewn picnic tables and small stools. It is meant to offer a hint of what street dining is like in Vietnam. The chalkboard menu on the wall is in Vietnamese and snapshots of the country and small handmade art works from the country give it character.
Service is friendly and warm and the family truly enjoys introducing the cuisine to a new audience as well as to those familiar with it.
Now about the name, Pho Lucky. It refers to the Nguyens’ son, Luc, called Luc-key by his family, who died in 2011 when he was just 5 years old. The restaurant was named in his memory.
Addison Apts., 3111 Woodward at Charlotte, Detroit
Call: (313) 338-3895
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sun., Mon., Wed., and Thurs., 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tues., 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Prices: Appetizers $3.99-$4.50, main bowls and plates $9.43-$11.95
Credit cards: All major
Noise level: Moderate
Parking: Rear lot
What the ratings mean:
★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding