Baton Rouge’s newest pho restaurant takes a stylish approach to traditional cuisine

Photos by Ariana Allison

Pho 97 takes its look seriously. But owner Tony Bui is arguably even more serious about the food. The team at the new Vietnamese restaurant cooks its broth for 24 hours, just as the owner did growing up.

“You eat with your eyes,” says Bui’s wife, Tiffany. “You eat with your feelings before you even taste the food. We like to provide a warm welcome.”

Bui says he grew up in traditional Vietnamese family. He often likes to get together with friends at pho restaurants, but he says he could never find a modern-looking restaurant for the gathering.

Pho 97

“Why not just open something where people can enjoy a nice modern environment and still enjoy very traditional food,” he says.

Bui purchased the former Italian Pie location on George O’Neal Road in January and immediately closed it down to begin creating his and his family’s vision: a new location of Pho 97, a restaurant concept his family started in Hawaii. The restaurant’s grand opening was Oct. 2, when Bui says it sold out of food and was fully seated the entire night.

During the design process, the building’s original ceiling beams were uncovered, sanded and stained to fashion a rustic but modern atmosphere. The beams add to the outdoorsy feel by giving the illusion the customers are sitting under a pergola.

“I love eating outside, but the problem with Louisiana is the weather,” Bui says. “I decided to build an inside-but-it-feels-like-you’re-outside vibe.”

Plants surround the dining area, while star-like lights cover the main floor ceiling. A “date night” area is sectioned off, where hanging flowers cover the entire ceiling for those looking for a private and romantic evening. Tony said he and his family worked eight-hour days for three weeks solely on its floral ceiling feature.

To read more and see additional photos of the contemporary space, check out the full story from our sister magazine, 225.