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This Vietnamese noodle restaurant now serving pho in Gainesville
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Pho with filet mignon and meatball is prepared Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at Pure Pho & Grill off Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

The days of traveling beyond the Gainesville city limits for Vietnamese cuisine are over — unless you really, really want to.

Pure Pho & Grill opened June 4 in the Publix-anchored Villages Shoppes off Dawsonville Highway, offering Vietnamese specialties like banh mi — a baguette filled with pickles, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeño and diners’ choice of chicken, pork, shrimp or tofu — traditional rice and noodle dishes and, perhaps the country’s best-known culinary staple, pho.

Pure Pho & Grill Vietnamese Noodle Restaurant

Where: 833 Dawsonville Highway, Suite 210, Gainesville

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

More info: purephoandgrill.com

Pronounced “fuh,” pho is a noodle soup made with broth, rice noodles, meat or tofu and a medley of scallions, onions, bean sprouts, fresh herbs and jalapeño.

It takes about 12 hours to cook the broths — beef, chicken and vegetable — to perfection, according to co-owner Bien Tran, producing a thin, soup-like texture.

If you’re dining in, don’t be alarmed by the singing robot making its rounds through the restaurant — that’s just BellaBot, a robot designed for food delivery. Able to carry about 10 dishes in tandem, the technology has proven especially helpful in transporting pho, Tran said, which tends to be “heavy and hot.”

Sharing ownership with Tuan Truong, who runs the noodle restaurant’s sister location in Cumming, Tran immigrated from Vietnam to Hall County nearly 25 years ago, just in time for his freshman year at Johnson High School.

While Saigon Deli has infused Oakwood with the flavors of Vietnam since 2018, Tran said the city of Gainesville was in desperate need of the same accommodations. 

“I was always wishing we would have a Vietnamese restaurant, but I never imagined that someday I’d be the one that opened it,” he said. “At the end (of the day), I am proud to share my culture and my country’s food with the community. Customers come here and joke with me, ‘Gainesville has 20 biscuit restaurants and 20 Mexican restaurants — I’m so glad that you’re here and it’s a different flavor for everybody to try.’ And they don’t have to drive (outside of town). When you eat here, you support the kid that grew up here — not a stranger.”

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Bien Tran has recently opened Pure Pho & Grill in the Publix shopping center along Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

With some hints of French influence owing to 19th century colonization, Vietnamese cuisine is “very tropical” and showcases a good deal of variety, according to Tran.

Customers with a penchant for egg rolls will likely enjoy Pure Pho’s crispy fried rolls stuffed with taro, carrots, diners’ choice of ground pork and shrimp, seafood or vegetable — and a mother’s love.

Chieftess of the restaurant’s “egg roll duty,” Tran’s mother prepares about a thousand rolls a week, he said.

“When you taste the egg rolls, you’ll taste that they’re made from love.”

Though understaffed, Tran said business has been booming since the doors opened, with an afternoon lull usually hitting between 2-4 p.m. 

“It’s exceeded all expectations,” he said. “Everybody’s swarming in. 

“I’ve been working 16 days straight with five hours of sleep (a night) since the opening. If you’re here to make money, you’re in the wrong business. You’re here because you love the passion and you want to dedicate and share your food and your culture with the community.”

It may be summer, but pho alone accounts for half of the restaurant’s revenue thus far, Tran said.

“Soup never goes wrong,” he said. “When (customers) think of pho, they think of our country, because it’s famous for it. Just come and give it a try.”

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Gainesville has a new Vietnamese noodle restaurant named Pure Pho & Grill off Dawsonville Highway in the Publix shopping center. - photo by Scott Rogers
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A freshly grilled beef dish is plated Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at the new Pure Pho & Grill Vietnamese restaurant in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers
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Pure Pho & Grill in Gainesville uses a robot named Bella to transport diner's meals to their table. The new Vietnamese noodle restaurant just recently opened in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers