During the pandemic, Veronica Maldonado developed a taste for pho. Back in 2020, she was the newly hired marketing and communications manager for the Garland Convention and Visitors Bureau, and she was learning about the community to put together some sort of trail. Her mind immediately went to margaritas, but after asking around her new office about where to eat, folks kept suggesting pho.
“Garland has a large Vietnamese population, and because of that we have a lot of authentic Vietnamese food on top of other Asian foods,” Maldonado tells Eater Dallas. After a co-worker took her to Cali Saigon Mall on Jupiter Road, the pho at Noodlelicious got her whole team thinking: How about a pho trail?
And now, pho lovers can follow the Pho Real Trail around Garland, trying out some of the best bowls in the city from a collection of 19 small, locally owned businesses. The city had an app built, so pho lovers and the pho curious can track where they’ve eaten — and win some small prizes, if the gamification part of things is what draws you in. But for most, Maldonado says, the experience of small, local restaurants has been the driver. “It’s really a great way to get to know your neighbors, and their culture,” Maldonado says. “And you get invited into this different world of eating.”
While the idea was coming together, food blogger Mike Chen moved to Dallas — and ended up visiting one of the restaurants on the trail. “That was kind of another, ‘Hey, we got to make sure that we jump on this because it is unique’ moment,” Maldonado says.
“A lot of the businesses that are in Garland that offer authentic food are small business owners,” Maldonado notes. “On top of our amazing Vietnamese cuisine, we’ve got African cuisine as well, and obviously, our Latino community offers a lot. Look at Garland when you’re looking for something flavorful and authentic because our diverse food scene is definitely the one that you’ve got to check out.”