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For the love of pho: Boston couple commutes to new restaurant in Northampton

  • Dining area at Pho Boston in Florence, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Clockwise from front, Special Combination Beef Noodle Soup, Vietnamese Crepes, Roll Sampler (shrimp, egg, tiger), Shrimp Imperial Roll at Pho Boston in Florence, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Maruone Thach, who is the owner and chef of Pho Boston in Florence, holds an order of Vietnamese Crepes, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Roll Sampler (shrimp, egg, tiger) at Pho Boston in Florence, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shrimp Imperial Roll at Pho Boston in Florence, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Special Combination Beef Noodle Soup at Pho Boston in Florence, Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pho Boston, 311 Riverside Drive in Florence. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 10/14/2019 11:29:10 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Every day, Maruone Thach gets up at around 7 a.m. to get ready to drive to work. Thach and his wife, Trinh Nguyen, live in Boston but work in Northampton at their newly opened restaurant, Pho Boston, where Thach does the cooking. At around 9:30 p.m., the couple drives back, getting home around 11 p.m. They do this seven days a week, alternating who drives and who sleeps in the car, although sometimes they take separate vehicles.

“I need to move out here,” said Thach, who is looking for a home in the area.

Pho Boston opened last month, at 311 Riverside Drive in Florence, in the space formerly occupied by the restaurant Bamboo Asian Cuisine. Located in a largely residential area, Pho Boston isn’t exactly on the beaten path, but Thach said he chose to rent the space because of its low cost and because he believed people would be drawn in by the food.

“Around here they don’t have Vietnamese restaurant,” said Thach.

So far, business has been good.

“They love my food,” said Thach, standing in front of a counter near the cash register.

“It’s been booming,” said waitress Rachana Kasom.

Kasom started working at Pho Boston only last week, but she said that on Sunday she made about $200 in tips alone.

Thach came to the United States from Vietnam in 1992 when he was 18 years old. Starting in 2001, he started cooking in restaurants, and he said that he has cooked in “too many” Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. Before that, he was a dishwasher and a vegetable chopper.

Pho Boston is the first restaurant he has owned, and he said that the affordability of the area, combined with the lack of competition, is what drew him to the Paradise City.

Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., the restaurant features the noodle soups known as pho (pronounced “fuh”), as well as curries, stir-fries and rice dishes. The most expensive dish on the menu is $12.50, but most entrees are $8.95.

Thach said that the Special Combination Beef Noodle Soup and chicken noodle soup, both of which are types of pho, are the most popular dishes on the menu.

The beef broth takes seven hours to make and involves boiling large beef bones. The chicken broth, meanwhile, involves boiling chicken bones for five hours.

Another item on the menu, the Vietnamese Crepe, is stuffed with onions, shrimp, pork and bean sprouts and has turmeric in the batter, while the Tiger Roll has a filling of seafood and cream cheese. The special combination pho consists of both sliced beef and beef meatballs.

As for what he likes to eat, Thach said he enjoys the noodle soups as well as the Lemongrass Chili Stir Fry, which he said he eats every day.

Thach doesn’t cook any pho with tendon in it, a component of some pho dishes, because many customers leave it in the bowl.

“Not a lot of people eat that,” said Thach.

Kasom, 21, of Southampton, said that she and her parents and grandmother first went to Pho Boston as customers.

“We saw that his wife was the only one who was waitressing,” said Kasom.

Kasom’s mother brought her and her sister into the restaurant a few days later to apply for a job, and they were hired after a conversation that day. Aside from Thach and his wife Nguyen, Kasom and her 15-year-old sister, Vitsehla Kasom, are the only people who work at Pho Boston in Northampton. (It’s not part of a franchise; this is the one and only.)

Kasom said of the pho she serves: “I think it’s the best in western Mass.”

“I think that’s the thing that people love about this place, that there’s so much flavor,” Kasom continued.

Julie Grden and Steve Varelas, of Easthampton, went to Pho Boston for the first time Monday and were pleased with what they ordered: Rare Beef Noodle Soup and some eggrolls.

“It was very good,” said Varelas.

“It’s nice to have another option a little bit closer to home,” said Grden.

They said they normally get pho in Amherst and Springfield. They also said that they would be coming back to Pho Boston.

“We had a great time,” said Grden.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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