Bernard Whitmore

Pholicious Asian Fusion Restaurant & Bar
1062 Main Street, Holden
(508) 901-9999

The conversion of Holden’s decommissioned Friendly’s Restaurant to a house of pho was, for me, an intriguing phenomenon. It was further evidence of evolution in what I first encountered as a bucolic little New England town. Over a series of decades, I’ve witnessed peaceful country roads in the woods exploding with suburban development. Meanwhile, their dining options have become increasingly international. 

Its prominent Main Street address provides Pholicious with an ideal location and easy access. Yet whenever we meet up with north county friends for dinner we seem to default to old favorites. It was time to break that cycle, so when Holden options were listed again, I enthusiastically cast my vote for Pholicious. There was little debate; steaming hot bowls of broth would be perfect for this chilly late winter evening.

The Friendly’s Restaurant genome is so deeply embedded in generations of Americans that whenever I walk into a reboot such as Pholicious I automatically remap it to the original layout. Scanning the booths at Pholicious, though, I realized most of the customers were too young to have such memories and simply appreciate the airy open feel of the place: Boba bar at the front, bar-lounge in back, booths for dining occupying the center of the room.

The menu at Pholicious is extensive, but all it takes is a quick scan to find their specialties: Pho, of course, Ramen noodles and Bao (steamed flat dumpling wraps). Asian Fusion is in their name, so items and ingredients range beyond the border of Vietnam. Additionally, there are pages of vegetarian options and Bahn Mi sandwiches. Ever since I tried them at Mint Restaurant in Worcester, their crusty bread and harmony of simple ingredients have made Bahn Mi one of my favorites. 

Such a range of specialties, each with optional extras, can make decision-making a challenge, so we focused our attention on appetizers. Scallion Pancake, Shrimp Rockets, Crab Rangoons were a few that appealed.  Then my friend noticed Pork Gyoza. It proved a surefire choice. Gyoza are Chinese dumplings; thin dough wrappers folded over pork filling, crimped closed and deep-fried till crisp and golden brown. Even though the filling is mild in flavor, Pholicious blends minced pork with tiny bits of ginger and scallions. The results are subtle and delicious. Our order of six dumplings came with a bowl of radiantly orange duck sauce for dipping and a heap of shredded cabbage topped with thin sticks of pickled carrot.


Our plate of gyoza was served at the same time as the entrées, so we had to hurry to finish them before our brothy meals cooled off. First, I must note how attractive Pholicious’s Spicy Chicken Ramen is in appearance. It was my friend’s entrée choice and came served in a broad, pink-flecked black bowl dramatically highlighting large chunks of chicken breast meat, half a hard-boiled egg with its deep-orange yolk, glistening sheets of nori and a tangle of noodles bathed in spicy-rich chicken broth. 

These first impressions were, happily, exceeded by savory flavor profiles. From the chewy-woodsy flavored fungi and crunchy bean sprouts to the rich egg yolk and tender chicken, my friend was immersed in the Pholicious ramen experience. All this was supported by springy noodles and a broth so piquant that my sampling proved sinus-clearing.

For my first Pholicious experience pho seemed obligatory, thus, in that spirit I chose Pho Seafood. Its pale beef broth was packed with vegetables steamed al dente; broccoli florets, sticks of carrot and tender cabbage. It was served with the traditional plate of bean sprouts, thin slices of mild jalapeño pepper, and lime wedges. My favorite, though, was the sprig of fresh Thai basil. Its fragrance blossomed to life as I shredded each leaf and plunged them into my pho. Five shrimp, perfectly tender and mild in flavor weren’t overpowered by the broth; all flavors shone through. The menu had indicated seafood pho would include calamari and fish cakes. Conspicuously absent, the portion of five large shrimp easily satisfied my seafood expectations. 

As I looked up from my meal, I noticed the groups at tables around us were not eating dinner. They were there for Pholicious’s Boba Station and had large takeout cups of smoothies.  The list of ingredient flavor options is extensive, how about a lavender mango honeydew smoothie? Summer’s coming; with Pholicious’s outdoor seating, they’ll be sipping smoothies in the sunshine!