It’s a Pho Keene Great name, first of all. But that name — posted on the front of a new Vietnamese restaurant in Keene, N.H. — has put the restaurant at odds with the city manager, who deemed the restaurant’s sign offensive. (The Vietnamese soup pho is pronounced “fuh.” Say the whole name, quickly. Now you get it.)
The problem, reported New Hampshire Public Radio, is that the restaurant signed a lease for a space in Keene’s city hall. Pho Keene Great, a food truck that is slated to open a bricks-and-mortar space this spring, put up a “Coming soon!” sign. Keene’s city manager said the sign prompted complaints and violated the terms of the lease, which specified that tenants must ask for permission to post signage. The manager requested that the sign be taken down, and the restaurant complied.
But the story went viral — because, again, that name is just so Pho Keene Great, right? — spreading beyond Keene and escalating the debate. In a Facebook post Sunday, the restaurant hit back against the council, accusing it of “spreading a false narrative.”
“We have reviewed our contract and studied the sign ordinance regarding temporary signs and do not believe we violated ordinance or the contract,” owners wrote in the statement, which denied allegations that the restaurant had stoked the flames of the controversy by alerting local media. The restaurant has not responded to The Washington Post’s request for Pho Keene comment.
Many pho restaurants have simple names, incorporating numbers considered lucky in Vietnamese numerology. But there is also plenty of wordplay in the naming of American Vietnamese restaurants, and this one is in Pho Keene Great company. Numerous cities boast a Pho King (but unfortunately, Los Angeles’s Pho King Delicious has closed). The food truck What the Pho roams the streets of Washington. Pho Ever Yum serves the people of Thornton, Colo., and Pho Shizzle feeds hungry University of Washington students in Seattle. Pho Real in Silver Spring, Md., will have you quoting Outkast lyrics. The list goes on and on.
But the controversy has certainly put this small-city Vietnamese restaurant on the map. The restaurant has not yet opened, but people have flocked to its Facebook page to recommend it. “This place sounds great,” one commenter wrote. “The only thing Keene needs more than a great Pho place is a sense of humor.”