Bay Area restaurant to replace celebrity owned burger chain

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A widely popular Vietnamese restaurant known for serving pho with hefty beef short ribs is headed to Palo Alto.

Pho Ha Noi is moving into the large space at 185 University Ave., which for the past five years was the home of actor Mark Wahlberg’s burger chain Wahlburgers. Helen Nguyen, the owner of Pho Ha Noi, shared the announcement to her nearly 13,000 followers on Instagram on Thursday, and told SFGATE that she anticipates a spring 2023 opening.

“We are so excited for a new location [in Palo Alto],” Nguyen told SFGATE. “We would love to introduce non-Vietnamese customers to what real pho broth should taste like.”  

Nguyen said that she was especially thrilled to open a restaurant in Palo Alto, especially since renting a space in the bustling University Avenue is competitive. According to Nguyen, she beat out a fast-food restaurant that had its eyes set on 185 University Ave. after the property owner preferred the local Vietnamese restaurant to the national chain.

The forthcoming restaurant will be Nguyen’s first Peninsula outpost outside the South Bay, where she currently manages San Jose and Cupertino locations. She added that the Palo Alto restaurant will have a similar menu to the Cupertino site but that it will likely have an expanded dinner menu and offer cocktails and draft beers.   

The Palo Alto outpost of Wahlburgers, located at 185 University Ave., has permanently closed and will be replaced by a popular Vietnamese restaurant in the Bay Area. 

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

It’s unclear when Wahlburgers officially shuttered, but based on Yelp reviews, the closure seems to be recent. Last month, yelper Bobby M. wrote that the business was offering takeout orders despite the review platform indicating the restaurant had closed. SFGATE reached out to Wahlburgers for comment but did not hear back by publication.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding Wahlburgers in 2017 when Palo Alto became the chain’s first California outpost. Wahlburgers wasn’t famous for its food as much as it was recognized for its celebrity owners and brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlberg. The brother duo also had a reality TV show called “Wahlburgers,” which ran for 10 seasons before it was canceled in 2019. A year earlier, Mark Wahlberg was spotted filming at the Palo Alto store while promoting his TV show.

The show helped expand Wahlburger restaurants throughout the country. After the Palo Alto opening, the Wahlburg brothers planned to grow their California footprint by 30 stores, according to a 2016 article by Eater SF. Today, the state has three locations with one in Burlingame as well as another in Los Angeles and Cabazon.

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