House-Made and Local Love at Pho King Kitchen
By: Tyler Peckham
Of the about 100 food trucks in the Valley, few take the approach Mike Baum has with his truck, Pho King. An entrepreneur at his core, Baum decided to open a store front for his Asian fusion cuisine soon after testing the model on the streets.
The native Tennessean’s passion for business caused him to see “a need in the market” in Phoenix for Asian food and decided to open his food truck in 2012, creating a “symbiotic” relationship between the two vessels.
Since their opening, Pho King has been named one of the best Scottsdale restaurants in 2016, best food truck of 2017 by the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame and one of the 10 best pho in Arizona.
Of their success Baum said, “One of the issues with food is everything is starting to look the same” and Pho King focuses on “Being unique.”
In true Southern hospitality fashion, upon visiting Pho King Kitchen, Baum set out a bountiful feast of not only his own wares, but those of his local peers for me to sample.
We began with the meat and potatoes of the restaurant, pho. I went with the “Hippie” which featured a multitude of fresh vegetables, tofu, traditional-style noodles and a mild broth. It is not easy to infuse broth without meat stock and I have to say I was beyond impressed.
The dumplings at Pho King are to die for and I am not being dramatic. An ex-employee makes the dumplings fresh for the restaurant each week and they are beyond fresh. The restaurant offers four options: veggie, Sriracha buffalo chicken, sesame chicken and ginger pork and trust me when I say they do not skimp on portions here. Six full-size, pan-fried dumplings make up a single order. And I cannot say enough about the stir fry accompanying sauce.
Their savory options are awesome but who knew an Asian fusion place could do dessert so well too? Pho King offers two dessert options that are sourced from other Phoenix-based businesses: Lulu’s Italian Ice and Love Muffins. Both were absolutely divine and I am not usually a fan of sweet food. The Italian ice melted in my mouth like fresh powdered snow and the cupcake had frosting that was as smooth as butter.
Eating out as a vegetarian is not always easy, but Pho King offers tons of options for the veg-head and meat-lover. Why? His girlfriend Lisa has been vegetarian for years.
Pho King’s focus on local and house-made ingredients really makes the establishment stand out. Not only are the big things like meat braised in-house, but Baum also focuses on the small details like Peoria-sourced liquor and house-made Sriracha.
Baum said, “Our food is a culmination of the many people who have worked here” and the love and community of this restaurant really shows in every plate.
Pho King is a true hole in the wall treasure, whether in truck or store front form and you have GOT to try it out.