Tim Truong has dreamed of opening a Vietnamese restaurant in Hattiesburg since he moved here in 2000. He noticed that there was a lack of Vietnamese restaurants in the area and wanted to fill that gap.
Nearly 20 years later, Truong’s dream was finally fulfilled when his restaurant Pho Saigon had its grand opening on Aug. 17.
“I wanted to introduce people to my country and to my traditional food,” Truong said.
To further immerse visitors in Vietnamese culture, the restaurant’s interior is decorated with several photos from the country and a large map of Vietnam.
“If you are a Vietnamese person, you will see something that reminds you of the country,” Truong said.
Pho Saigon offers a variety of Vietnamese dishes and a wide array of teas and bubble teas but ultimately specializes in pho.
“The best food from my country is pho. Every single restaurant in my country, they do it a different way,” Truong said. “If you are a Vietnamese person, then you would know the difference. I learned our recipes from my parents and uncle, and no one can know them.”
Indeed, Truong is the one who prepares the marinades and other recipes for the restaurant’s food every day and is the only one at the restaurant that knows the exact recipes.
Truong said he has been pleasantly surprised by the great reviews he has heard from customers and the large amount of business the restaurant has received, which he credits in part to the restaurant’s location near campus.
Along with being a hit with those unfamiliar with Vietnamese cuisine, Truong said that Pho Saigon has been much appreciated by the large Vietnamese community in Hattiesburg and the surrounding area.
“I had heard that there were many Vietnamese people around Hattiesburg, but I didn’t know them,” Truong said. “I just heard they live around. But now I know many that have come here.”
Freshman biomedical science major Jasmine Nguyen recently ate at Pho Saigon and said she was glad that Hattiesburg was gaining more restaurant options. Nguyen enjoyed her experience eating at Pho Saigon and said she would definitely dine there again.
Junior hospitality and tourism management major at Southern Miss Lauryl Nguyen is the manager of Pho Saigon. Lauryl Nguyen describes herself as being a lover of all different kinds of food, but that Vietnamese food is incomparable to other types.
Lauryl Nguyen said that along with being the only Vietnamese restaurant in the era, Pho Saigon is also different in that it is a truly authentic experience and offers options that are unique to the Hattiesburg food scene.
“It’s good for once to have something that’s not Americanized, like deep-fried or coated with a ton of soy sauce,” Lauryl Nguyen said. “That would kind of defeat the purpose of Vietnamese cuisine since Vietnamese cuisine has more healthier options. So it gives customers a chance to try something different than your stereotypical Asian menu.”
Lauryl Nguyen said that since Pho Saigon’s opening, they have received almost an overwhelming amount of business. More than once, they have run out of food for certain dishes and had to create a waitlist for seating. Nguyen credits Truong with helping things run smoothly and maintaining a comforting presence in the restaurant.
“We all have our moments when things get hectic and we get overwhelmed, but he handles it very well,” Lauryl Nguyen said. “He also communicates with customers a lot and they seem to like that. In some places, you don’t really see the head guy there, but Tim commits his whole time every day to being here.”