The Pho Capital of Milwaukee
Silver City restaurants are serving Pho at a reduced price to celebrate Asian culture in a revitalized neighborhood.
For the entire month of February, the Pho Capital of Milwaukee — the Silver City neighborhood — is promoting its authentic signature dish: a steaming hot broth made of beef, chicken, or shrimp with bean sprouts, cilantro, sweet and spicy sauces and other herbs. Pho originated in Vietnam but includes other Asian cultures such as Laos and Thailand. All February long, such Silver City restaurants as Thai Bar-B-Que, Thai Lotus, and Vientiane Noodle Shop have been offering discounted $5 pho every Friday and Saturday. (This Friday is the last day for the discounted soup.)
The Silver City Business District and the Layton Boulevard West Neighbors have collaborated to bring “Phobruary” to raise awareness on Milwaukee’s Asian authentic restaurants and culture. The Silver City and Layton West neighborhoods include diverse ethnic restaurants including Asian, Indian, Puerto Rican, Mexican and Peruvian. Layton Boulevard West is bordered by Miller Parkway and just 10 minutes away from Downtown. It encompasses Silver City, Layton Park and Burnham Park and although the first settlers were European, the neighborhood today is a diverse mix of Latino (66 percent), Caucasian (22 percent), African-American (5 percent) and Asian (4 percent). We spoke with Natanael Martinez, Economic Development Manager of Layton West Neighbors about the event and its mission.
Why are did you decide to create this event?
I’m always looking for ways to promote the amazing small businesses in Layton Boulevard West Neighbors. I was introduced to Pho a few years back and thought the simple yet complex soup was the best I’ve tasted. Plus, Pho is perfect to advertise during cold weather. The unique part about Silver City is its collection of authentic international restaurants that feature cuisines from seven different countries. I believe that dining has evolved in both Milwaukee and the United States and diners are now interested in new experiences in food and culture. Silver City features three restaurants within four city blocks that offer a number of different Asian cuisines such as Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian and Chinese, each with their own unique variation of Pho. This promotion is part of our efforts to promote neighborhood businesses and demonstrate the neighborhood’s capacity to support commercial businesses and investments.
How did you go about choosing restaurants to participate?
We did outreach to all the restaurants that have Pho on their menu and asked them to participate. With the help of one of the owners at Asian International Market in translating the goals and benefits for the promotion, we were able to get all three restaurants to take part in the promotion.
How will you measure this event’s success?
Our measure is whether the businesses saw increased sales based on year on year performance and whether the promotion was able to help them reach new customers. Given some of the feedback I’ve heard, the event’s results look promising.
Can you paint a picture of the neighborhood?
The neighborhood is very diverse and that is reflected by the many stores and businesses located along National Avenue. Silver City already features a number of high quality international dining and retail establishments such as La Isla (Puerto Rican and Cuban food), Mr. Sebass (Peruvian food), Mamie’s Bar and Grill, Mexican Chicken Palace, and Milwaukee Nights, a bar popular for rugby teams. However, there are a number of opportunities of vacant commercial space to support other small local businesses or aspiring entrepreneurs. There are a lot of families that call Silver City home and there are many great amenities available to residents and visitors. The neighborhood is in walking distance of Miller Park Stadium and the Mitchell Park Domes. In the last 2 years, we have also seen the opening of the Urban Ecology Center, the Wisconsin Bike Federation and the amazing Three Bridges Park.
Do you feel that Milwaukee has enough authentic Asian restaurants and that people have enough awareness of them?
I have not been to all of the restaurants in Milwaukee that serve Pho. I think Silver City has a great selection of restaurants that serve Pho and they have done an excellent job in providing a great experience to customers. I’m impressed when I go to the restaurants and notice people of all backgrounds dining there. As with all small businesses, resources are limited and they do not have money to allocate to large television, billboard or direct mail marketing campaigns. Social media has really helped to spread the word about the promotion. We have also been fortunate to have a some great earned media through local newspapers, online blogs and television stations. Silver City is a neighborhood with a lot of momentum and as word continues to spread, it will definitely become an area that people identify as an authentic international dining destination.