West Coast Grill aims for global quality.
Stop for a moment and inhale deeply of West Coast Grill’s pho. This steaming bowl of beef broth, vegetables, herbs and thin slices of beef is deceptively delicious, a melange of flavors and textures evoking Vietnamese street chefs. Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is as individual as the person who makes it and is a beloved meal in Vietnam, much as each grandmother’s chicken soup is as individual and beloved by families here in the West.
But it’s not just the pho that’s delicious at West Coast Grill. The unassuming restaurant on South Calhoun Street is also one of the best places in the city to get duck in various permutations. Crispy duck is very popular, and founder Lee Truong sources his duck from Maple Leaf Farms near Leesburg, Indiana.
“Peking duck is very popular,” Truong said. “The owner (of Maple Leaf Farms) came to me to let the Indiana people know about duck.”
Growing up in Vietnam of Cantonese Chinese decent, Truong remembers street vendors with hanging racks of dripping, sizzling duck waiting for customers. He recreates that sight at the front counter of the restaurant, where on any given day, you’ll see one or two whole ducks, plus a slab of pork belly, hanging inside a glass-fronted display case, dripping fat and emitting delightful, succulent smells.
“The recipe (we) use is traditional for Peking duck,” Truong said. “My goal is to get Fort Wayne people to able to get the duck (in a) very authentic way.”
Many people come to buy a whole roasted duck that’s been spiced with traditional Chinese herbs or indulge in pan-fried noodles with crispy pork belly, he said. His shrimp fried rice is also very popular, he said.
Truong came to the United States in 1990, living first in California before becoming a manager for Panda Express, opening the fast-food Chinese restaurants across the Midwest. He opened the first Panda Express in Fort Wayne in 1998, and after he left Panda Express, he decided to open his own restaurant to showcase more authentic dishes that he grew up with. He opened next door to the Panda Express at Glenbrook Square in 2011, then opened the South Calhoun Street location in 2014. He closed his Glenbrook location in 2014 to focus on the South Calhoun Street restaurant.
“I think this (location) is a big opportunity with the diversity of the customers,” Truong said, noting there’s a large population of Burmese and Hispanic immigrants in the area south of downtown where his restaurant is located, across South Calhoun Street from a Walgreen’s drug store, just south of the intersection with Creighton Avenue. Being close to downtown and offering quick service brings in office workers as well, he noted.
The restaurant’s menu isn’t large, but Truong said he’s been able to concentrate on his customers’ favorite dishes. Noodle bowls, pork, duck and pho are top sellers, as are the “bubble teas” he offers – especially the avocado lovers bubble tea, whose recipe he graciously shared with Fort Wayne Magazine this month.
And while many people believe duck is unhealthy due to the fat content, Truong notes much of the fat drips out, leaving behind a crispy skin that’s mouth-wateringly good. He gets sushi-grade avocados and uses a wide variety of fresh vegetables to round out his dishes.
“I will not negotiate with my ingredients,” Truong said. “I have the best suppliers.”
And, Truong said, he’s willing to make special orders for his customers, as long as they call in advance.
“If somebody wants something like a ginger chicken or Chilean sea bass, let me know,” he said. “People call in special orders all the time.”
Truong hopes more people will discover the quality and variety of items he has on offer.
“My symbol is ‘global quality with neighborhood prices,'” he said. “This is very authentic food.”
West Coast Grill
2310 S. Calhoun St. • (260) 744-7999
Hours: Open for lunch and dinner daily
Specialties: Peking duck, pork belly and other pan-Asian items
West Coast Grill’s Avocado Lover Bubble Tea
¼ cup non-dairy powdered coffee creamer
¾ cup honey
½ cup freshly brewed and cooled green tea
¾ cup ice
1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.
2. Add chopped strawberries, blueberries or other fruit, as desired.
3. Optional to add tapioca pearls (known as “boba”), available at Asian markets. Follow directions on package, or boil tapioca pearls, uncovered, in water for 30 minutes, let cool, covered, for an additional 30 minutes. Rinse with cool water before adding to serving glass with smoothie.
First appeared in the April 2016 issue of Fort Wayne Magazine.