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Posted on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

Vietnamese restaurant to replace former Fat Philly's and Burgers on Washtenaw Avenue

By Katrease Stafford


An opening date has yet to be set for Pho House, at 2224 Washtenaw Ave. in Ypsilanti Township.

Joseph Tobianski |

A new restaurant, Pho House, will be opening in the former Fat Philly's and Burgers location on Washtenaw Avenue. Fat Philly's closed in December.

Pho House will be at 2224 Washtenaw Ave. in Ypsilanti Township on the corner of Hewitt, and a sign has been updated to say the restaurant is coming soon.

An employee at the Ypsilanti Township planning department said the new business is a Vietnamese restaurant, but inspections must be finalized before opening. The employee was unaware of the exact opening date.

The restaurant, which is nearly 3,000 square feet, seats about 89 customers. The building is owned by Wei Chen, who purchased it from the Bank of Ann Arbor in 2011 for $182,000. The building was assessed at $111,400, making its market value nearly double at $222,800.

Calls to Chen were not immediately returned.

Fat Philly's and Burgers closed less than six months after opening last July. Prior to Fat Philly's, the Fattoush Grill was housed at the same location.

The former Tios Mexican Cafe also was at the same Washtenaw location and closed in 2010 following nine years of business, citing years of struggling financially.

"Ypsilanti is just getting killed,” Tios Owner Tim Seaver said at the time. “There’s just really no business on the block.”

Over the course of the past two years, the stretch of Washtenaw Avenue east of US-23 has seen restaurant turnover. Leone’s Bistro on Washtenaw Avenue, closed in December 2011 after struggling to turn a profit. The Italian-themed bistro opened in September 2010 in the former Cottage Inn Cafe space.

A used car dealership, Rightaway Auto, has since opened in the former Leone's Bistro place.

Pacific Beach Burritos at 2835 Washtenaw Ave. also closed within the last two years.

Further down on Washtenaw Avenue in Pittsfield Township, the Brahma Steakhouse & Lounge closed in January and a new restaurant, Maiz Mexican Cantina, has opened in its place.

The Hibachi Grill and Supreme Buffet located in Pittsfield Township’s Glencoe Crossing shopping center is closed until further notice after being open for six months.

Selina Chen opened the restaurant last June in the 12,000-square-foot space at 4735 Washtenaw Ave. Chen opened the restaurant in the former Bistro Bar and Grill space, which closed in 2011 for renovations but then never reopened.

Although restaurants have recently closed in the area, some business owners are still showing signs of interest in investing in the area. The owner of Blue Wolf Grill, which opened Dec. 13 in Ypsilanti Township on Washtenaw, is hoping to tap into the restaurant's close proximity to Washtenaw Community College, Eastern Michigan University and Saint Joseph Mercy Hospital.

Co-owner Charles Molina said he believes there has been a rebound in the area east of U.S. 23 since the recession hit about five years ago.

A Happy’s Pizza also opened last year on the southeast corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Golfside Road in Ypsilanti Township.

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Feb 16, 2013 : 5:08 p.m.

Nice journalism. Happy Pizza moved like half a block, not "opened" up on corner

C. Montgomery Burns

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Has anyone seen my hounds? They are missing. Coincidence? I think not!


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 5:28 p.m.

Oh lighten up monty!


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 5:57 a.m.

Great news. I wish them great success. Keep the quality ethnic food and ethnic groups coming, especially to ypsi.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:42 a.m.

I like Pho and I wish the business owners lots of success. I do know that restaurants in the Ypsi-Arbor Washtenaw corridor have had a difficult time surviving over several decades now. I'm not exactly sure what the problem is. Maybe it's because the residential housing east of Carpenter is predominately multi-family? Maybe renters just don't have enough money to eat out as often, or they have smaller budgets for restaurant meals when they do eat out? I think Pho's owners and any other restaurant owners on that strip should find a way to advertise among the many apartment rental communities along Washtenaw? Getting them in the restaurant is the hardest part. Then you may have to accept a smaller margin than you hoped for?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 5:10 p.m.

"Maybe it's because the residential housing east of Carpenter is predominately multi-family?" Completely untrue. I live in College Heights, a very community-oriented neighborhood of single-family homes, across Washtenaw from another neighborhood of single-family homes, and just slightly north of Normal Park, still another neighborhood of single-family homes. It would be so nice if commenters checked their facts before posting.

Tom Teague

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:41 a.m.

This AND a new Japanese Noodle House? I may have to clone myself so I can eat at both places at once.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11 p.m.

Here's a link to an Ann Arbor .com PHO recipe from a couple years ago. I've made it many times and it is delicious.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 10:47 p.m.

UPGRADE. Good luck!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 9:43 p.m.

Yay! How exciting! I love the vietnamese restaurant in Ypsi, but its not the kind of place I would go to when craving Pho. We drive by this place everyday and cheer when we see the pho sign, will definitely be stopping by at least once a week!

Ann English

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:58 p.m.

I don't eat out, but I often drive by this part of Washtenaw, going from Walmart to the Dollar Tree west of Pho King. So Pho is soup? It's the perfect time of the year for a restaurant serving soup to open, for this is cold and flu season. From earlier comment posts, Pho reminds me of Peggy Lampman's Shrimp with Angel Hair, Artichokes and Fresh Herbs recipe. Seafood or chicken stock, angel hair pasta, basil, tarragon, chives, and/or tarragon. Makes me curious about trying some of the batch I just made this morning, tomorrow at lunch or dinner.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:55 p.m.

Makes me wonder if they get a small business loan and then blow it off after 6 months. It takres longer then 6 months to make a business work and get up and running.

Jay Thomas

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 5:42 a.m.

Restaurants shouldn't be started with SBA loans considering that most fail. I really hope that wasn't the case here.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:15 p.m.

its because no one ever fully appreciates the economics of opening a business in that type of environment. The clock starts ticking the minute you sign your lease. maybe you have 30 or 60 days to start paying, but during that time you have to do your build out, get your permits, get your inspections done, get more inspections done, buy your inventory, soft open, then advertise. All of that before you've sold a single bowl of 8 dollar soup that cost you $.20 to make. Thats if you know what your doing. If this is your first time, that process can take 2x as long and cost 2x as much. You probably forgot to budget as much as you actually budgeted. now your open, now what? It can take months to build a clientele in a business like this (not some big flashy opening or chain). running specials, paying for advertising. Remember how you and/or your spouse quit your day job to follow your dream? Guess what, your barely covering your operating expenses, much less bringing money home. So that lasts for about a year until you completely run out of money. Remember back in the beginning how you didn't want to pay a lot of rent, so you didn't negotiate that hard for certain lease clauses and took on more responsibility? guess what, the roof is leaking and its your cost to fix it. you know whats easier? BANKRUPTCY! You walk away, the LL cant sue you because you have 0 assets left, and everyone moves on. This is not unique to any portion of retail or restaurants. I see this all over the place. It sucks because that may be the best Pho King bowl of soup in the area, but the amount of money it costs to be successful always wins out in the end. Takes money to make money they say.

Edward Green

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

Good to see another vietnamese restaurant. Washtenaw county is totally lacking in this area. Washtenaw has some of the better thai restaurants, so I hope this one is good.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

I would be interested to see what market research they had that told them that putting up a Vietnamese place, less than 2 miles from another one in a area without a large Vietnamese population, is going to succeed? I hope something there finally has some success, but I fear it will only be a fast food place that can attract the people coming and going from EMU. A sit down place, with one across the street and all the ones downtown and Depot Town, not to mention Ann Arbor, just doesn't seem like a good business move.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

Yea! (Sarcasm)

Atlas Shrugged

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

"A new restaurant, Pho House, will be opening in the former Fat Philly's and Burgers location on Washtenaw Avenue, which closed in December." Wow. Washtenaw Avenue closed in December???? That's what the sentence says, and it really is a surprise since I and a zillion others (perhaps even a teacher of proper English) were driving on Washtenaw just yesterday, totally oblivious to the closure.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:46 a.m.

I'd love to see what commuters would do if Washtenaw Ave closed for a month. What a nightmare. Thanks for the chuckles.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

Or somewhere else.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

Now feel free to "go Galt."

Cindy Heflin

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

Your are correct, Atlas. That's a dangling modifier, and it's been fixed.

Lou Perry

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

Driving east of 23 on Washtenaw into Ypsilanti there is not one, accept for Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse, Asia City and Big Boy a sit down/wait staff restaurant. Each attempt to open one to my knowledge has failed but people investing in opening new ones continue. The assumption of two commuter colleges, EMU and WCC to bring in business just isn't going to happen. It could be with the Asian diners as seen at Asia City a Vietnamese restaurant might work but all these others should see the track record of others. The mantra for retail is location, location and prior attempts in my opinion makes this stretch null.

Ypsi Ypsi Ypsi

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

And don't for get Haifa Falafel. They're amazing and have been doing great because of it; it's always packed when I go in there.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:50 p.m.

Temptations, Palm Palace, Thai-Thai, Samosa House, Pita Pita, Tuptim, The Golden Egg, Blue Wolf just to name a few

Paula Gardner

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

I join many of you in hoping this restaurant makes it. Some of the changes along Washtenaw east of US23 are exciting to watch. I'm hoping for some news near the Golfside corner soon, which could help things along.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

Yes, Paula please let us know if you hear anything. Fingers crossed for something good!

Paula Gardner

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

I saw a notice that the Farmer Jack building may be under contract. No luck in getting any more info than that yet - but we'll keep trying.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

Would love to see something exciting at the Golfside corner! As some smart commenter said above, the biggest problem along this stretch is that years of bad planning left it a junky-looking hodgepodge. I drive that stretch regularly, and I never even noticed Blue Wolf until I read about it here--I just keep my eyes straight ahead and hope that I make it through all the strip malls and fast food places. The more good places there are on this stretch, the better for everyone. So, Paula--have you heard rumors? :)


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

What, exactly, IS Pho? anyone?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 5:27 p.m.

to everyone who chimed in, thank you. sounds good. must try it.

Some Guy in 734

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

UncleMao--wrong pronunciation. It's "fuh", not "foe". And before you ask, yes, there is a small chain of restaurants called What The Pho.

Some Guy in 734

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:16 p.m.

It's a noodle soup. The broth is usually beef based, and is made with ginger, onion, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, fennel seed, and fish sauce (of course everybody has their own recipe). The noodles are made from rice. Then it's finished off with condiments of your choice, including lime juice, bean sprouts, basil, and various sauces. It's absolutely delicious, but I have yet to have any pho in or around Ann Arbor that is worth eating, so I make my own. I hope this new place does it well, because making the broth is rather time-consuming.

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

I've been told it's a Vietnamese noodle dish and some variations have portions of meat included as well. It's worth noting that I never had the dish before, so if someone has a specific explanation, feel free to chime in!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:05 p.m.

It's kinda like pho-fur.

dave french

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:37 p.m.

I wish them luck. Maybe they can break the streak. Due to poor planning back in the 60's and 70's this stretch has turned into a giant hodgepodge of signs and buildings. It would be easy to get lost in all that noise and clutter. But let's hope they make it!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:29 p.m.

Great to see a new Vietnamese option in the works. Hopefully Pho House and Dalat can coexist and both thrive.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

Hope they make a great Bahn Mi sandwich! Can't find one anywhere! Had Pho in L. A. Awesome ...


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:22 a.m.

The Lunch Room makes the best Bahn Mi I have had in Ann Arbor.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:34 p.m.

Bona Sera makes great sandwiches which they call "banh mi" but which aren't actually banh mi. They use Chinese steamed buns for them. I love them, especially the shrimp one, but they don't scratch the banh mi itch.

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

Love Bahn Mi!!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

As somebody else said, Bon Serra makes Bahn sandwiches.

Kyle Mattson

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:07 p.m.

Thanks for sharing that tip Seldon, it may be a drive from A2 but my girlfriend lives not too far from there so will put it on the list of places to try sometime in the near future.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:32 p.m.

Oddly enough Bona Sera in downtown Ypsi has great (untraditional) Bahn Mi sandwiches.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:22 p.m.

Nobody local is doing traditional Vietnamese banh mi. These guys do, though, and they're worth the drive:

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

I've never had pho before, but I look forward to trying this place.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 9:16 p.m.

Pho is my go to hangover/cold medicine. Paradise is one of the only places that you can get it around town. It's not great but it does the job. Can't WAIT for this place!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 8:01 p.m.

Pho is one of lifes great joys. Bathtub sized portions of broth, vegetables, meat and spices. Plus all the ways you can work Pho King into a sentence (its not actually pronounced like that they tell me, but whats the fun in that). Actually I am surprised its not a federal requirement to name your restaurant Pho King....maybe a future article?

Denise Anderson

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

Hmm, I am somewhat limited in ethnic cuisine; I don't even know what Pho is [besides being a restaurant that will be opening soon].

Lizzy Alfs

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:45 p.m.

Thanks for the suggestions! I've always wanted to try Tomukun since it's so close to my office.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

Best pho in town right now: Paradise, in my opinion.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

You don't have to wait for this place to open to get pho in town. Places like China Gate and others have it.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

try Tomukun on Liberty. Excellent.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:43 p.m.

"Ypsilanti is just getting killed," Tios Owner Tim Seaver said at the time. "There's just really no business on the block." No excuses dude. On such a heavily traveled road? What you should have said is "There's really not a place worth stopping at, including the bastardized version of Mexican food I serve"


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:32 p.m.

I wouldn't say "worst," but it's not good.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:58 p.m.

Do I ever agree. Having lived in the Southwest, I can safely say that Seaver serves the WORST so called Mexican food I've ever tasted.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

Good one! I worked their many years ago on Huron street....all of the food was microwaved. I hated microwaving those nachos and then sending em out for delivery when some of them melted into the styrofoam. What Tios calls Mexican food is truly laughable, Taco Bell has better flavor!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.

If you check the archives you'll see I called this restaurant dead on arrival when it opened. Good enough isn't good enough. If a Sysco truck pulls up to the back door, unloads, and then the "chef" opens those bags and boxes and throws the assorted garbage in a deep fryer, you will not and should not make it (even in MI.)


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:34 p.m.

Blue Wolf Grill seems to be doing VERY well and I read on their FB page they are soon going to serve weekend breakfast. In my book they are serving up the best food in the area for the best prices. Seem to be doing a great take out business as well. Just wish they had more room! Pretty crowded at lunch hour! Stuffed french toast, loaded hash browns, fresh crepes......let's get that breakfast going, Blue Wolf!


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:26 p.m.

jns131, It's right across from the soon-to-be Pho House. It was a Taco Bell. It's now a really nice sit down restaurant....quality food! When the weekend breakfast begins, maybe Katrease can do a report for us! :-)


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:43 a.m.

Cash? Never heard of the restaurant but you know what? I love a good breakfast any day of the week.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

That would be so much fun, Patty! Lunches there rock...can't wait for breakfast, maybe with Patty and Katrease!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:05 p.m.

Order a cup of coffee and some crepes for me, and I'll join you as soon as I can, Cash and Katrease! :)


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:17 p.m.

Katrease, On their FB page they say they'd like to begin weekend breakfast the first part of February. See you there! :-)

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

I'll have to check them out soon. The stuffed french toast sounds great!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:01 p.m.

Drove by yesterday and saw the same sign. This story offers up no new information. Just a rehash of many old stories by A nice cut and paste job on this article.

Boo Radley

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:08 p.m.

Sorry ... an extra "d" in Ad ... It really would be nice to have an edit feature.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

87 You are so right. After all, no one is allowed to read unless they have valid evidence that they drive by that intersection on a regular basis as well as proof that they read every sign on every building on every road that they travel.

Boo Radley

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 2:27 p.m.

Hearing a run down of past restaurant closings in the article made it very worthwhile. Not just a free add for the latest restaurant opening. Well done article, in my opinion.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

I found out about the new restaurant opening up there from the article. Lighten up.

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:51 p.m.

EightySeven, I made attempts to reach out to the building owner, as indicated in the story above, as well as township officials. This story serves the purpose of letting readers, who could have missed the sign while driving, know that a new business will be opening. When more information becomes available about the new restaurant, we will follow up with an additional story.

Homeland Conspiracy

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:25 p.m.

If you can do better...step up!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:25 a.m.

There is a great restaurant in downtown Ypsilanti. The one on the corner. I like that one. Guess I'll have to frequent that one too. I wish them luck. That corner does not seem to hold much promise. When does Tim Hortons go in on that corner? Anyone?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:41 a.m.

Dalat. I always forget the name. Their chicken dishes no matter which? Are to die for. Need to get back there. Sigh. Then there is that new Mexican restaurant too. So new choices so little money and time to go.

Some Guy in 734

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 6:20 p.m.

Ah, Jessica, but only three of those are on a corner.

Jessica Webster

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

There are more than a few very good restaurants in Ypsi right now. Beezy's, Dalat, Bona Sera, Red Rock, Wurst Bar, Sidetrack ... !!!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:26 p.m.

Dalat is the Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Ypsi--and it's pretty darn good!


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 4:11 p.m.

You are probably referring to Bon Serra (spelling I think is right), which I agree is great. Probably one of my favorite places. There are a few other good places around there as well. Beezy's is good. There is also a place a cross the street from Bon Serra called Red Rock. Good as well.

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 12:54 p.m.

Jns131, Are you referring to Dalat? It's not far from City Hall I think.


Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:25 a.m.