With the opening of Pho King Noodle Bar in Mount Pleasant, owner Oanh Dang will go from being associated with a restaurant name beloved by its community to one she fears could cause trouble.
“I’m hoping it doesn’t offend anyone,” says Dang, who recently turned over Eva’s on Main in Summerville to a couple from Florida. “The signage is ready to go.”
It’s more likely to spawn a line of successful merchandise, if the experience of other pun-susceptible Vietnamese restaurants is any guide. When The Washington Post earlier this year covered the dust-up over Pho Keene Great in Keene, N.H., it listed Pho Ever Yum, Pho Shizzle and Pho Real among the U.S. soup purveyors playing on the correct pronunciation of pho, which is usually rendered as “fuh” in American English.
There are a number of other Pho Kings across the country, but the name was available in South Carolina, Dang says. Vietnamese food, though, is in short supply throughout the Charleston area, which is why Dang is eager to serve her family’s favorites at 700 S. Shelmore Blvd.
“The pho is going to be homemade; it’s what my mom made,” she says.
In addition to the namesake noodle soup, Pho King will serve spring rolls, beer, wine and sake. Dang describes it as a fast-casual operation. She plans to open the restaurant as soon as it’s adequately staffed.
“We’re blessed in Charleston to be number one with so many publications, but the problem is we don’t have the infrastructure,” she says. “It’s unfortunate.”
Despite having to contend with the food-and-beverage sector’s hiring crisis, Dang still feels Pho King will be more manageable than Eva’s, in part because she lives in Mount Pleasant.
“I didn’t have the time or energy (for Eva’s),” she says, citing obligations to her four young children.
When she first met with Ray and Whitney Easler, she was struck by their commitment to reviving the 66-year-old institution.
“I knew they would give more back than I was ever capable of,” she adds.
Dang purchased Eva’s in 2015, four years after the death of founder Eva Hinson, who outlived the daughter designated as her successor. By 2018, customers were openly fretting about the decline of a restaurant so central to the town’s identity that the late Summerville Mayor Berlin G. Myers breakfasted there every day.
“It just needs more attention,” Dang said when she announced her search for a buyer.
Neither Ray or Whitney Easler returned phone calls, but Dang says the first four months of their tenure has proved her right.
“They’re doing a phenomenal job,” she says of the two longtime hospitality professionals. “It was hard to say goodbye and good luck, because Eva’s is so dear to people, but they have tremendous experience.”
Although the Easlers haven’t made any major changes to the meat and three-style menu developed by Hinson back when she was apt to sit in a kitchen rocking chair, shelling peas, The Journal Scene reports they’ve introduced a gravy-smothered omelet and praline-topped baguette; Dang is infatuated with their fruit tart.
On Yelp, where complaints about ripped upholstery, microwaved sausages and surly servers had accumulated before the Easlers stepped in, a regular customer in January happily noted, “Eva's is under new ownership and a lot of love is being poured into this Summerville icon.”
The restaurant hasn’t received a negative review on the site since the Easlers took charge.