A Vietnamese dish incorporating Chinese flavors and French style, pho is a beef broth soup of rice noodles, vegetables, and meat. Typically accompanied by garnishes, sides, and sauces, this meal is an interactive experience in which you, the eater, choose your own destiny of taste. You could do a bit more hoisin sauce for a sweet and savory soup, or a dash of sriracha on top of those bean sprouts, or even just plain and simple with a light squeeze of a lime.
A derivative of the French pot-au-feu, or classic beef stew, the Vietnamese have made this soup their own, as is expressed in the many restaurants offering these hefty bowls around the Valley. Here are 10 of the best.
Da Vang With an extensive menu including both Thai and Vietnamese options, Da Vang is a family-friendly restaurant with big tables and a bright atmosphere to complement the flavors put into their dishes. The pho, offering only the traditional beef broth, is full of flavor without being too heavy or greasy, only enhanced further by the addition of hoisin sauce and sriracha. Huge pieces of bok choy rest on the ample serving of rice noodles, with offered toppings of lemon and dandelion leaves in addition to the standard bean sprouts, basil, and jalapeños. Accompany this with coconut water straight from the coconut and you'll be set.
Khai Hoan Restaurant A favorite of college students, Khai Hoan is nestled in an area of easygoing eateries offering foods of many nationalities. With lightning fast to-go service and plenty of in-house seating, Khai Hoan offers a bit for everyone in this small family operated restaurant. A pho with a pleasantly onion-heavy broth and ample garnish to top the already significant bowl of soup, this is the perfect meal for a cheap college student in need of an affordable dish that will last a few meals.
Pho Chandler Tucked away in a large shopping complex, Pho Chandler is a small restaurant slinging bowls of pho filled with notably fresh ingredients and friendly service. Though offering a rather small bowl of pho (at least in comparison to the other spots on the list), they don't skimp on ingredients as the soup is overloaded with the standard ingredients of carrots, bok choy, onions, broccoli, and cabbage, which further accompanied by a big plate of bean sprouts, basil, and jalapenos. A bowl with full flavors made us quickly forget the size and eat up all the tasty beef and veggie soup.
Pho Van Pho Van is conveniently in the same shopping complex as Lee Lee's Marketplace, offering a comfortable, clean, and modern atmosphere with a beautiful fish tank centerpiece. Their pho is presented in a huge bowl and is filled with tons of green onions and intense citrus flavors. A broth on the greasy side, the flavor is strong and blends well with the softer than average noodles. The powerful onion flavor adds depth to the beef broth which doesn't need much addition of sauces, though a bit of sriracha was a perfect touch of spice to blend the citrus, onion, and beef flavors.
Saigon Pho Saigon Pho is a dark and cool restaurant with extremely fast service delivering a piping hot bowl of soup, great for a date or a family outing. The ambiance is further enhanced by the live lobster tank in the back of the room, as well as the deep and comfy booths. The pho is presented with the classic sides to put on top of the hot and flavorful soup, which has already been filled with big chunks of veggies, though the hefty stalks could be omitted. A lively setting, Saigon Pho has a bowl of soup that offers a beef broth that is hot, light, and pleasantly savory without overpowering the rest of the ingredients.
Pho Thanh A popular destination, Pho Thanh is a quiet restaurant adorned with posters of women sewing and filled with long tables welcoming big groups. With a huge menu, including informative blurbs describing the history of the dishes, this restaurant offers cheap options with traditional flavors and an authentic feel. The pho is greens-heavy, in addition to the extra toppings seemingly covering all the bases, from the leafy (lettuce, cilantro, and dandelion greens) to the traditional (bean sprouts, lime, jalapeños, and basil) in addition to the unique option of mint. Though a bit heavier and greasier than the other options on this list, Pho Thanh offers a huge and delicious meal in an authentic setting.
unPhogettable Winning the best pun award of the list, unPhogettable (think in a New York accent if you're still having trouble with the pronunciation of pho) is no joke of a restaurant. Connected to the extensive Mekong Market along the pho-friendly Dobson Road, this restaurant is often busy with families, shoppers, and pun-seeking hipsters looking for a filling and quick bite to eat. Standard garnishes were offered, though in small amounts and lacking basil altogether, they were not so much needed with the veggie-heavy soup. The light broth is filled with fried and green onions, large chunks of veggies, and little mushrooms, filling the large bowl to the brim. Though a little light in flavor by itself, the soup is utterly delicious with a heavy hand of hoisin and sriracha sauces.
Tea Lite Café Don't worry Scottsdalians, you have your pho options as well: Tea Lite Café in North Scottsdale is a delicious place to get your fill. The most expensive pho on the list yet the coziest establishment, Tea Lite sells ambiance as well as tasty bowls of soup. Basing their broth from both onion and garlic, this pho needed little added to complement the flavors, yet Tea Lite brings out an interesting bitter, lemon-pepper juice to pour into the broth. Be wary, though tasty, the citrus flavor can quickly overpower the otherwise balanced soup broth, that includes the surprise ingredients of fennel and ginger, giving the meal an overall aromatic feel.
Reathrey Sekong Reathrey's Cambodian iteration of pho, called katheaw, offers a lighter broth traditionally based from chicken and pork, with a few different garnish options like cilantro, lettuce, and fried garlic. The most notable Cambodian addition: Chaquai. Long, delicious pieces of fried dough used to dip or crumble into the soup. With Cambodian travel books on every table and these slight variations in flavors, this is a quiet restaurant that is perfect as a place to study up on your Cambodian tastes and culture.
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Rice Paper Every list needs a token hipster spot, and downtown Pho-enix (had to do it once) provides that place with the cozy house-turned-restaurant, Rice Paper. Advertised as a spring roll bar, the menu is dominated by their many rolls, but fear not, the small pho section certainly makes up for its size through flavor. Their pho veers from the path a bit, with ingredients like baby corn, big pieces of shitake mushrooms, and asparagus, but sticks to the classics with the sides. Also offering garlic fries and crispy spring rolls for the less adventurous of us, Rice Paper is a great place to start on a pho journey for those new to the game.