With a name ready-made for commemorative merchandise, Pho King Way just needed a reason to give its T-shirts away. Ergo the Fort Worth's eatery new six-course challenge, in which diners who polish off the first three dishes earn their very own "No Pho King Way" shirt.
But there are greater rewards in store for contestants who manage to devour all six courses in one hour. Meal finishers win $1,000, with the prize increasing by $100 for every 100 eaters who fail the gluttony test.
The challenge meal consists of two egg rolls; two fried wontons; two deep-fried shrimp; one spring roll; one grilled chicken spring roll; an extra-large bowl of pho with steak, brisket, flank, fatty brisket, tendon tripe and beef meat balls; a rice dish and a bowl of vermicelli, each with the complete meat line-up; filet mignon with garlic noodles and spicy fried rice.
Company President Alex Le reports 15 men have taken the challenge. None of them has made it past the third course.
"The problem is they're letting the pho sit, so the noodles expand," Le explains. "By the end, they're looking at the soup and they're freaked out."
Unsuccessful eaters are obliged to pay for what they've eaten, Le says: The first three courses cost $31.
Le says he hasn't yet decided whether he'll continue the promotion if someone claims the prize.
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"We're hoping nobody does it," he says with a laugh.
Pho King Way opened in November, after Le took over a small chain of California pho shops.
"Originally it was called Pho Saigon, but the problem is, everyone has that name," Le says. "You can't copyright it."
Le is Pho King proud of his company's new punning name, but hasn't yet been able to give away any signature schwag in connection with the challenge. He's still waiting for someone to finish that third dish.