Imagine for a moment you're on a road trip passing through the Mid-Atlantic region, or on your way to the coast. Maybe you’re just going for a “Sunday drive” heading east or west. Or maybe you’re thrown a dart at a map and it landed on Hickory, North Carolina. Whatever scenario gets you here, you’ll want to stay longer or come back – or both, because the Asian food scene is a foodie’s dream. You see, Hickory sits at the foothills of the Appalachian mountain range and rests conveniently off I-40.
As your adventure takes you here, you wonder: What's the food scene in Hickory? What is Hickory known for – and what put them on the map? BBQ. Absolutely. Fried food. Everywhere. Livermush. It's on the menu. Pho. Who said anything about Pho? And, why is Pho being served in a small, rural town in the south? For some, you’ll ask: What is Pho? All legitimate questions that you need to answer and discover.
Let’s focus on this Pho (pun intended) a moment, shall we. Hickory has a large, well-documented and integrated Hmong community. To compliment that, Hickory has a tremendous Asian food scene with Vietnamese leading the charge. There are at least 10 restaurants that offer a wide variety of Asian flare – Pho in particular.
Upon entrance into any one of these establishments, the aroma is going to hit you. And, it’s at that moment, you realize you’ve made a good decision. Or, maybe it's your first time and you don't know what "that smell is". That, my friend, is the authentic smell of Vietnamese broth and freshness. Mouths start to water; drool starts flowing and stomachs start rumbling. As you open the menu(s), you easily see that Pho is offered in a variety of traditional proteins such as meatball, flank, shrimp, and pork. If your vegetarian or vegan, you can get it without protein.
My family and I have moved across the U.S. starting in Salt Lake City. My ethnic heritage is Indonesian and I have an aunt that is Vietnamese. I grew up eating a variety of traditional Asian dishes. The many places we have lived, there’s been Pho – just not to this level and detail. These restaurants focus on quality and freshness, and if you’re an outsider – or an experienced Pho connoisseur – you’ll easily identify what I’m talking about.
With our unique population of young college students to retirees, world business leaders and local health care professions, you’ll quickly understand why the Pho scene in Hickory is incredible and popular. Outsiders and locals alike, wouldn’t easily see our small town diverse and accommodating for such a unique taste. One typically sees Pho in metropolitan cities where it’s a young, hip and trendy crowd. Or, in large college towns like Chapel Hill, Raleigh or Blacksburg, Virginia.
As you experience these restaurants, you're not going to encounter fancy, upscale, high priced, white linen, tuxedo-wearing wait staff. You'll get service from local residents. You'll have ingredients sourced locally and regionally. You’ll get a hole-in-the-wall, strip mall or standalone restaurant; the type of storefronts you might say to yourself, "Is this safe?". Now, don't get me wrong. North Carolina has some of the highest standards for restaurant cleanliness and safety, and when you see a percentage score in these establishments, your mind is immediately set at ease.
So, you've entered the restaurant and identified the unique aroma and sat down. As I stated earlier, you may have started drooling and have a restless stomach growl. And as you order, you're told that “it’s going to be several minutes before your Pho comes out. Is that okay?” It doesn’t matter if it’s the busy lunch hour, a quiet evening by yourself, with your spouse or out with your friends; it will take a while to get your Pho out. Why? One might ask. It’s because the Pho is made fresh and from scratch.
My travels across the U.S. for work and play; living in big cities and rural America, and bumping that up against our diversity, accommodation, and support for Pho, sets Hickory apart from communities across the U.S. Furthermore, I would argue this puts Hickory on the map to compete with large metropolitan cities like Charlotte, Raleigh, Houston, Salt Lake City and more (when comparing Vietnamese restaurants to population).
You need to experience our Pho. You need to explore our [Pho] restaurants Hickory has. You need to taste the exceptional flavors of our Pho. You need to taste how our restaurants blend the freshest ingredients into a bowl of goodness. You need to do this because Hickory is Pho real.