Update: Opening day for Alki pho restaurant Saigon Boat Café

Story and photo by Mary Sheely
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

Between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. today, Saigon Boat Café, 2632 Alki SW (map), served 20 customers. For many restaurants, that probably wouldn’t be such a great number. But for a restaurant on its opening day, with no fanfare save a lit-up “open” sign? Not bad at all.

Owner Nhung Tran, who with her sister Thu Tran is the proprietor of Saigon Boat Café and Red Nails, around the corner at 2648 59th SW, two businesses that we have covered previously, is smiling as she stands in the cheerful space that used to be a dreary rental house.

“We just opened, they come!” she says.

The once dingy gray-blue exterior is now a warm reddish tone, with matching lanterns hanging from the eaves. A gravel courtyard with several patio tables and chairs is ready for the warmer months. Inside, worn carpeting has made way for newly refinished hardwood floors, and track lighting and wood paneling lend a warm glow.

At a front window, four students of Rose De Dan’s Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC are taking a break from a weekend workshop, digging into large bowls of pho, the Vietnamese soup filled with noodles, vegetables, and meat. What brought them in?

“The pho!” Amara Simons says. The group simply wandered down Alki, saw the sign, and jumped at the chance to try a new pho place.

Nhung and Thu Than underestimated how many people would do the same. They are already out of sandwiches, but they’ll be serving pho until 8:30.

“I’m going to have to get more bread,” Nhung says. She adds that Red Nails, where business has been a bit slow since it opened, was busy today as well.

At 5:30, the door opens, and a man in dressed head-to-toe in cycling gear walks in.

21 and counting.

Saigon Boat Café will be open daily from 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Vietnamese sandwiches are $2.75 each; all pho is $5.95 per serving. Vietnamese Coffee is $2.50. Call (206) 932-5714

19 Replies to "Update: Opening day for Alki pho restaurant Saigon Boat Café"

  • changingtimes January 22, 2010 (6:51 pm)

    vietnamese sandwiches!!!! omg! so excited its super close to my house! :)))

  • Admiral Janeway January 22, 2010 (7:13 pm)

    Good luck Nhung and Thu! I’ll head on down and try the pho this weekend. Looks delicious!

  • bridge to somewhere January 22, 2010 (7:53 pm)

    i love vietnamese coffee and sandwiches — i’ll check it out!

  • marty ure January 23, 2010 (8:47 am)

    How do you pronounce Pho?

    • WSB January 23, 2010 (10:02 am)

      marty, someone may offer a more eloquent explanation of this, but basically, the “o” is pronounced as “uh.”

  • Mark January 23, 2010 (9:22 am)

    Mary, I always enjoy your local business reviews. They keep getting better and better, and almost every one makes me want to visit the location, you bring it to life so well. Thank you! :-)

  • dining free nulu January 23, 2010 (10:26 am)

    I also enjoy your pieces about new business endeavors and WSB for providing the format.
    I usually get my Vietnamese sandwiches in White Center. Now we have a place in West Seattle that I look forward to trying.
    Of course , this would not be a ‘dining free nulu’ post without a concern about WSB.
    I can find no statement of ethics for “reporting” on WSB.
    Are WSB writers allowed to receive freebies, comps or other type of payment of any sort (Vietnamese sandwiches) from businesses, groups, or individuals that they write about or photograph?
    There was a recent issue at the NY Times where a freelancer mentioned his credits for the Times and apparently received some sort of junket.
    He was fired.
    The 35 page ethics/disclosure manual for the NY Times had not been followed to a T.
    When I worked for ABC mostly in the eighties, we received lots of comps, but that was sleazy television “news”
    What is the WSB policy?

    • WSB January 23, 2010 (8:25 pm)

      Nulu, if you’re asking whether Mary paid for her pho, yes, she did. Re: written ethics code, while I haven’t seen many news orgs that have theirs on their website, ours eventually will. In the meantime, we’re about as open as you can get, noting sponsors as such even if they’re mentioned in an innocuous context like a calendar listing. We don’t do freebies – you must have missed my sad little aside right above the pizza photo in this story (the food really did smell and look incredible and I hadn’t even had breakfast)
      Speaking of pizza, since you bring it up, Mary represented WSB at Zeeks Pizza “media night” earlier this week; Patrick and I had community meetings to cover but we wanted someone representing WSB there in case any announcements were made. PR-organized “media nights” don’t happen much in West Seattle; the ones we usually get invites for are outside West Seattle, and that makes “no” a no-brainer, since our coverage is focused, but in this case, we didn’t want to miss news. As it turns out, no story resulted as nothing newsworthy was said, but I told the PR agency ahead of time that we would reimburse them, and I’m awaiting the tab. We take this sort of thing very seriously. When restaurants have their grand openings, we drop in, take photos and leave (often earning bemused glances from other news orgs’ reps tucking in the chow and drink, hopefully reimbursing their hosts later? Or if not, at least disclosing in a footnote that they ate courtesy of the house.) – TR

  • nmb January 23, 2010 (11:09 am)

    They are already out of sandwiches, but they’ll be serving pho until 8:30. Saigon Boat Café will be open daily from 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m

    Except they closed at 6:30. We were there at 7 and were turned away. :/ Guess we’ll have to try again some other day.

  • miws January 23, 2010 (2:22 pm)

    Never been there, but there’s a Noodle House over in the Bellevue area, named “What the Pho?“. :D


    In fact, I believe they recently opened up another location somewhere.



  • cleat January 23, 2010 (2:43 pm)

    Yaaaa HOOOOOOOO What great mark of a good business to run out of food the first day when not even announced they are open!!!

  • bridge to somewhere January 23, 2010 (2:44 pm)

    went today — good, inexpensive sandwiches, nice peope, great Vietnamese coffee . . . and some cute mispellings on the menu. :-). Good place!

  • miws January 24, 2010 (12:43 am)

    Nulu, why are you always digging, digging, digging, trying to find fault with WSB?


    I can only imagine, that if you had a job where you oversaw other employees, that you’d be one of those “micro-managers” looking for the tiniest, mistakes that employees might make, or the least relevant, non-adherence to company policy, just so you’d have an opportunity to write them up, and make yourself look good.



  • Aa January 24, 2010 (9:47 am)

    We’ve so excited to see a Pho place open up right around the corner from our house. Saturday afternoon we dropped by and discovered the delightful, simple menu with great pricing. Unfortunately, they were out of Pho noodles, so we ordered sandwiches instead. Wonderful!
    We will be regulars!

    (and yes, nulu, your post was quite transparently silly … if you were REALLY curious, you would have emailed the editor directly)

  • lonely nulu January 24, 2010 (9:47 am)

    WSB, as they acknowledge, are finding their way in this new era of news/communication/gossip. I would like them to deny having made some mistakes along the way.
    WSB also, has the only, and last word.
    Tracy often responds to my concerns, which in a manner, validates them.
    Mike writes,
    “I can only imagine, that if you had a job where you oversaw other employees, that you’d be one of those “micro-managers” looking for the tiniest, mistakes that employees might make, or the least relevant, non-adherence to company policy, just so you’d have an opportunity to write them up, and make yourself look good.”
    Right on, dude!
    Your words might describe yourself obsessively scrutinizing nulu, except you can find no errors to exploit and fall into non specific personal attacks like this one.

    I appreciate Mike’s imaginative personality profile and would share it with my friends,
    if I had any!

  • curious nulu January 24, 2010 (5:36 pm)

    If I emailed the editor directly, as you suggest, I would hope to get the same answer from WSB, as laid out above by Tracy.
    Transparency is supreme.
    I would be deprived of your (and miws’) sparkling commentaries.
    I also appreciate your calling ethics concerns that WSB endorses and used this forum to proclaim, “quite transparently silly …”

  • Alkilicious January 24, 2010 (7:01 pm)

    Home alone with a bad cold, I stumbled down to Saigon Boat Cafe for a bowl of hot chicken soup to go. What a lovely place! Very warm, soothing decor. Great windows for enjoying the view. They were very kind and welcoming. I ordered a freshly squeezed orange juice and chicken pho to go. The juice is delicious and soup is … just right. Not salty but wonderfully flavorful. Crispy sprouts. Fresh basil. Perfectly cooked noodles. Tender chicken. I think I’m feeling better already! :)

  • AM January 25, 2010 (12:28 pm)

    can’t wait to check it out, i love Pho! Thanks for reporting on it WSB, i love knowing when new places open and think you’re doing a fantastic job!

  • Free Lunch January 25, 2010 (6:59 pm)

    I love Vietnamese sandwiches. I’ve been getting them at that bubble tea/coffee shop across from the water taxi. Delicious!

    Looking forward to trying this new spot!

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