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Sunday, January 26, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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S-R reader shares his longtime love of pho in Spokane

By Michael Runyan For The Spokesman-Review

Editor’s note: Reader Michael Runyan’s email and photos from Nov. 21 are too good not to share – and there needs to be more people like Runyan and his wife, Marilyn, in this world.


I very much enjoyed your piece in Wednesday’s S-R Food section comparing Three Sisters and Le Brothers. We, too, have been longtime – some 25 years – fans of pho in Spokane, and our favorite place today also is Pho Van.

I was introduced to pho by my wife, Marilyn, about 25 years ago when she was introduced to it as an ESL professor at Gonzaga. I’ve included a photograph of Marilyn and me a few years ago.

At that time, the only pho place we knew of was in the B and Y Market at about 1800 E. Sprague. We got to know the owner, Cam, who in time moved out of B and Y and started his own place farther east on Sprague called Pho 999.

In the attached photograph, Cam is holding his granddaughter, Ella, and also is pictured with his wife, Tuett, and their daughter, Phong (my apologies if I misspelled their names). They are wonderfully warm, kind and happy people. For more than 15 years, several of us would gather at Pho 999 every Saturday for lunch.

We knew of and occasionally met at another pho place called Vien Dong, which at the time was kitty-corner from the B and Y. B and Y became the Bay Market, which moved and became Best Asian Market. When Pho 999 closed, we tried to keep our lunch thing going, but it faded away.

Today, Marilyn and I currently split our attendance with Pho Van every other Saturday, Three Sisters once or twice a month and another place that we went to when it was on Sprague and now is at Freya and Trent, Vien Dong, once or twice a month.

A note about Vien Dong: It is a family operation, and we’ve come to know Yen, the daughter who is always there, and her mother, who doesn’t speak English well, but talks with her eyes. Marilyn says they have the best pork sandwich she’s ever tasted, and, while she usually orders that, I get the large rare beef pho with extra sprouts.

A note about our relationship to the Vietnamese community through our pho experiences: We used to go to dances, first in the full basement at Pho 999 and then at a large venue in Spokane Valley. I even sang and performed with their rock band a couple times.

We’ve been guests at their Catholic Church, St. Pat’s, and their Buddhist temple in Hillyard. We’ve been to their homes and involved in their children’s birthday parties. And today when we walk into Vien Dong, Yen comes out and gives me a hug.

So in sum, our love of pho has brought an amazing aspect to our lives. Again, thanks for the article, and, if you haven’t already, give Vien Dong a try. I will again – this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Bye for now.

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