All Pho You

Chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare cook up big surprise in York Street space

Chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare cook up big surprise

Dallas chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare in Vietnam
Chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare sampled foods and took cooking classes in Vietnam in preparation for their new restaurant, Mot Hai Ba. Photo courtesy of Jeana Johnson
York Street, Watel's
Mot Hai Ba will take over the space previously occupied by Watel's and, before that, York Street. Photo by Brad Murano
Dallas chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare in Vietnam
York Street, Watel's

Chefs Jeana Johnson and Colleen O'Hare, owners of Good 2 Go Taco, have a surprise in store for Dallas diners with the new restaurant they're opening in the old York Street space. They'll do authentic Vietnamese — as in, they went to Vietnam to learn the recipes — and the restaurant will be called Mot Hai Ba.

It'll be a dark, sultry place serving trendy items like pho and banh mi sandwiches, plus dishes from North Vietnam they hope will be entirely new.

The restaurant comes from a passion for the cuisine, which they furthered by visiting Vietnam to research and study.

 "We'll serve pho at lunch, but we won't serve it at dinner," Johnson says. "We'll follow traditional Vietnamese eating patterns."

"The first trip, we spent two days below the DMZ, but other than that, we were in Northern Vietnam," Johnson says. "We rented motorcycles. It was recreational. The second trip, we spent the entire time in Hanoi eating street food, trying fine dining places, taking a cooking class and immersing ourselves in that food culture."

They've always loved Vietnamese food and have been regulars at places like Ba Le and Saigon Mall.

"When we came home from our first trip, we looked around town for the dishes we'd tried," she says. "It slowly settled in that we would do the dishes we really loved from North Vietnam but couldn't find."

The duo will also pay attention to the customs attending the different dishes. Pho, for example.

"Pho is actually a breakfast and early lunch dish," Johnson says. "No one in Vietnam would eat pho at night. We'll serve pho at lunch, but we won't serve it at dinner. We'll follow traditional Vietnamese eating patterns."

Johnson and O'Hare will also serve some rare wines and beer. And, thanks to the unusual liquor license that goes with the York Street space, they'll not only sell it for consumption on the premises, but also to-go.

"We can't sell any hard spirits, but what we can do is sell six-packs and bottles of wine," Johnson says. "And we won't do a crazy markup. So you can, for example, come in and buy a bottle of reasonably priced light Burgundy three times a week that you won't be able to get any other place."

Construction is underway; they hope to be open in April. As for the name, it's what people chant in Vietnam when they take a drink.

"Mot Hai Ba means 1-2-3 in Vietnamese," Johnson says. "Every country has its slogan; it's what you say when you drink. On any given street corner in Vietnam, you'll hear, 'mot hai ba, yo!'"