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10th annual Pho-bruary warms up your soul through the coldest month

Bowls of pho from Vientiane
Mallory Cheng
Bowls of pho and appetizers from Vientiane Noodle Shop, located at 3422 W National Ave in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Despite the unseasonably warm days we've had this month, winter in Wisconsin is far from over. During cold days arrive and you're searching for some food that can immediately warm you up, a nice, warm bowl of pho is a fantastic option. Pho is a noodle dish filled with broth, vegetables, herbs and meat. It’s a dish originally from Vietnam, but is popular throughout southeast Asia and is served all over the world, including here in Milwaukee.

Throughout this month of February, three restaurants in Silver City and Layton Park are celebrating thetenth annual celebration of Phobruary that celebrates the dish. Restaurants, Thai Bar-B-Que, Vientiane Noodle Shop and AsianRican will be offering menu and pho specials throughout the month.

For Nate Walden who works at Vientiane, and Cinthia Téllez Silva, the economic development manager for VIA CDC, the tradition's impact on the community is undeniable.

Téllez Silva explains how the ten-year tradition was started to spur economic growth during the restaurant's less busy months. And at the same time introduce new potential customers to the different types of foods, especially in a part of the city that is so ethnically diverse.

Vientian's in-house made pork sausage.
Mallory Cheng
Vientiane Noodle Shop makes their own in-house made pork sausage.

According to Walden, the process of making pho requires boiling bone to extract flavor and can take up to eight hours. The most common form of pho is beef broth with noodles, but there are also other varieties such as chicken broth, and a vegan vegetable broth. Any of the variations of dishes can also include meats like meatballs, duck or oxtail. The dish also often comes with assortments of garnishing vegetables and can be made sweet, sour, spicy and other varieties depending on personal preference.

"That first spoon of the broth with a good bowl of pho, you get that richness of the broth. It's not like chicken noodle soup," Walden says, describing the dish."It's something that when you take that first sip, it fills your soul [and] you get that warmth in your stomach."

Téllez Silva believes the annual event supports the Via CDC's mission to see the community thrive. "[Phobruary has] been one of our organization's staple to support small businesses," she says. "Every year, everybody's looking forward to Phobruary."

Walden adds, "I know that every year we continue to do it because it brings the community together. If we don't work together, if we don't want to succeed, there's no change [that] will happen. That's the first step trying to bring the community together and make sure it's growing together."


Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Rob is All Things Considered Host and Digital Producer.
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