Pho Hien Vuong Aboard the Triad Touring Tasters Express

Scallops at Willows Bistro

I wrote on Monday that Stephanie and I would be going on a little journey and that I would write about it this week. Today is that day.

We started out at our home base, Willows Bistro, and met up with Mary Lacklen and Deanna Watson, both from Triad Local First and Triad Touring Tasters. We had a fantastic appetizer of scallops with roasted red peppers and oddly enough, lima beans. Stephanie even ate the lima beans, which isn’t something she usually does. And, we also were treated to a lovely beverage of our choice and we both chose the sangrias because they are the best in town.

After the warm-up, we jumped on a beautiful bus with horseshoed seats, lights and a great stereo system. It looked new. The bus was provided by Matt Logan, Inc. and I — The Man Who Ate the Town — recommend them for your business transfers or “party bus” situations.

Group photo @Mary Lacklen

The bus took us to Greensboro to Pho Hien Vuong where we met co-owner Trang Trinh (she along with her brother, Ben own this lovely culinary palace) and several friends and fans of the Triad Touring Tasters. Pho Hien Vuong has been around for a while and has become a favorite among Greensboro diners as well as Winston-Salemites willing to cross the dreaded “Sandy Ridge Line” to get their Pho “eat on.” I can see why it has become so popular.

Trang made sure we were comfortable and took wonderful care of us.

Appetizers from Pho Hien Vuong

The tasting adventure included a round of appetizers featuring “The Appetizer Tray” including a few different styles of wings like Spicy Buffalo and Thai Style Basil, fried and fresh spring rolls, shrimp rolls and fried tofu. I had never had tofu and I tried it. I don’t really care for it but Stephanie does and she said it was good. So, if you’re into tofu, absolutely this is a great place to get it. But, the introduction wasn’t finished there. The rest of the appetizers were delicious. I’m a sucker for peanut sauce and the sauce at Pho Hien Vuong was very good.

We all got what Stephanie and I thought were full bowls of their meatball Pho. Turns out this was a smaller portion than the full bowl. The Pho alone could have been a full meal. Most of the dinner guests had to get to go boxes at the end of the evening. The Pho was so deep in flavor with a cinnamony broth that wasn’t too thick but it wasn’t watery, either. The meatballs were flavorful and seasoned and the clear noodles were so tender. The onions and scallions were a magic touch. This was so good. I am craving more as I type this.

Pad Thai with Seafood

But, wait, there’s more!

Caramelized Chicken w/Ginger

Then came the entrees. Stephanie ordered the Caramelized Chicken with Ginger. This is boneless dark meat chicken slowly simmered in traditional Vietnamese caramel sauce. Pho Hien Vuong uses white meat chicken almost exclusively. The only exception is this dish which uses dark meat. It’s cooked in a caramel sauce and you should know that Vietnamese caramel sauce isn’t the same as American dessert caramel. It’s still a little sweet but is known more for its smokey flavor. The dish was really good.

I was going to order something else, but Trang talked me out of it only because it wasn’t “Thai” but “Hawaiian” and I wanted to try more Asian-style. So, instead, I ordered the Veggie Pad Thai and added seafood to it. This pad thai featured stir-fried noodles with sprouts, scallions, and eggs. Now, I didn’t find a lot of sprouts in mine, which is okay. But, the flavors were slightly salty, sweet, sour and slightly spicy. Topped with ground peanuts added that nutty flavor that I think Thai food should have. Someone asked me about it and I said it was “fantastic.” They said they most they figure from pad thai is that it’s “good” but “fantastic?” I ate all of it, even after all the apps and Pho.

Sticky Rice & Banana

For dessert, we had a sticky rice with banana pudding. Sweet and sticky, just how it was supposed to be. It was in a banana leaf “bowl.”

We were at Pho Hien Vuong on a tour, but we will definitely go back again. The staff was polite and friendly. The ownership was amazing. The company vibrant and fun. And, they had real chopsticks, not bamboo sticks that leave splinters in your mouth.

Triad Touring Tasters (TTT) is part of the Triad Local First concept. The folks in Greensboro don’t want to come to Winston-Salem. Winston-Salemites don’t travel to High Point. Asheboro folks don’t travel far to eat. At least that’s what the overall consensus is. TTT is hoping to at least blur that “Sandy Ridge Line” if not eliminate it altogether. To be clear, the Sandy Ridge Line isn’t just between Winston-Salem and Greensboro, it’s the imaginary magnet that repels all the other culinary magnets in the Piedmont/Triad area.

Winston-Salem talks about having such a great culinary scene, and I agree with “them.” But, our idea of “ethnic” food is Mexican, Italian and “Asian Fusion.” I love all that, but it’s overdone. There are a few places here that have Pho but, it’s not very exciting. Greensboro has a reputation for having a lot of ethnic options but their overall culinary scene is lacking. That may be a myth, it may be a fact. But, we each need to meet one another in the middle while meeting each other on our own turf when it comes to our culinary scenes. We have a lot to learn from each other and what better way to do that than actually get out and try it.

I get it, I don’t feel like driving to Greensboro, High Point and especially not Asheboro to eat, have an adult beverage or two and then have to drive back. But, I don’t mind when there are others with me and we are having good conversations and none of us have to concentrate on the road or worry about getting pulled for intoxicated driving. That’s where TTT comes in.

For one price, you get your gathering location apps and/or beverages and then you transfer via a bus to a place in another city where you’ll try something different than where you started. Your alcoholic beverages are generally extra. There may be other charges but you’ll be informed of those ahead of time. The idea is to introduce the residents of one place to the culinary scenes that surround them that they may never have known about.

So, I’m glad that my first foray into this experience tour was to Pho Hien Vuong because I know this is a place that I can actually frequent when I decide to cross the SRL. Why? Because it is amazing. And, Stephanie works in Greensboro, so she can go there when she wants.

Triad Local First is a non-profit membership organization based in Greensboro, North Carolina, with over 360 members – retail shops, real estate agents, insurance brokers, marketing and advertising firms, accountants, dentists, restaurants, farmers, breweries, and more.

The Mission of Triad Local First, a network of locally owned and independent businesses in North Carolina’s Triad, is to share a commitment to building a strong local economy and a vibrant, unique community.

Pho Hien Vuong is located at 4109 Spring Garden Street in Greensboro.

Willows Bistro is located at 300 S Liberty Street in Winston-Salem.

The Triad Touring Tasters Express

Tonight, Stephanie and I will be riding on the TTT Express from Willows Bistro to Pho Hien Vuong in Greensboro. 

TTT, while partly associated with Triad Local First, this isn’t necessarily affiliated with that. According to Mary Lacklen, “Our mission is to bring people out of their ‘bubble; and explore what our vibrant community has to offer in the food and beverage world.  We are very fortunate to have the use (at this time) of the bus to transport folks back and forth.  We would like to see Greensboro, HP, WS, and Asheboro restaurants and more collaborate more to promote all things local, share resources and promote the farmers.”

The invite for the event states: Triad Touring Tasters, or the “Triple T Express” is taking off to transport curious food lovers and their friends from Winston-Salem to Greensboro on Monday, July 23rd, beginning with a beverage at 6:00 pm at Willows Bistro, 300 S Liberty St, Suite 125 in Winston-Salem. We will board the bus at 6:30 pm and head out for an amazing dinner! Our destination is Pho Hien Vuong, at 4109 Spring Garden St in Greensboro. Serving Southeastern Vietnamese and Thai dishes made with the freshest ingredients and native spices, diners will enjoy their famous Pho and sample some of the delicious appetizers. All diners will be able to order off of the menu so we can accommodate everyone’s dietary needs. After dinner, a traditional Vietnamese dessert will be served.

This is the first of these that I’ve been on so I’m not sure what to expect. But you can be sure there will be pictures as I’m charging my phone, now.

Stay tuned!