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 leave it 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 dish their own, as is expressed in the many restaurants offering these hefty bowls around the Valley. Here are 10 of the best.
Da Vang4538 North 19th Avenue
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, offered only with 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, while offered toppings of lemon and dandelion leaves come in addition to the standard bean sprouts, basil, and jalapenos. Accompany this with coconut water straight from the source and you'll be set.
Pho Thanh1702 West Camelback Road
A popular destination, Pho Thanh is a bustling restaurant that’s slowly taking over the strip mall at 17th Avenue and Camelback Road. 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, with 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.
Little Saigon7016 North 57th Avenue, Glendale
West Valley residents don’t have to take a road trip to get a decent bowl of pho in the Valley. While there are many pho restaurants springing up in west Phoenix cities like Peoria, Surprise, and Goodyear, Little Saigon in historic downtown Glendale is one of our favorites. Not only is the cottage-style restaurant adorable, there are a good baker’s half-dozen (seven) orders of pho on the menu — including the classic pho tai (aromatic broth with sliced pieces of tender beef). It offers a serving of fresh vegetables to dress your bowl in addition to the onions and mixed herbs already found in the soup.
Khai Hoan Restaurant1537 East Apache Boulevard, Tempe
A favorite of college students, Khai Hoan is nestled in an area of easygoing eateries offering the 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 is the perfect meal for a college student in need of an affordable dish that will last a few meals.
Tea Light Café7000 East Mayo Boulevard, #1084
Don't worry Scottsdalians, you have your pho options as well: Tea Light Café in the north Scottsdale area (though technically still Phoenix) is a delicious place to get your fill. The most expensive yet coziest pho joint on the list, Tea Light sells ambiance as well as tasty bowls of soup. Basing its broth from both onion and garlic, this pho needed little added to complement the flavors, yet Tea Light brings out an interesting bitter, lemon-pepper juice to pour into the broth. But be wary — though tasty, the citrus flavor can quickly overpower the otherwise balanced soup broth, which includes the surprise ingredients of fennel and ginger, giving the meal an overall aromatic feel.
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 (with an additional location in Chandler), this restaurant is often busy with families, shoppers, and pun-seeking cool kids looking for a filling and quick bite to eat. Standard garnishes were offered, though in small amounts and lacking basil altogether, but 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.
Reathrey Sekong1312 East Indian School Road
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 and a perfect place to study up on your Cambodian tastes and culture.
Saigon Pho & Seafood Restaurant1381 North Alma School Road, Chandler
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. Amid 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.
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Rice Paper2241 North Seventh Street
Every list needs a token hip spot, and the Coronado neighborhood provides that place with the cozy, house-turned-restaurant Rice Paper. Advertised as a spring roll bar, the menu is dominated by the many rolls, but fear not, the small pho section certainly makes up for its size through flavor. Its pho veers from the path a bit, with ingredients like baby corn, big pieces of shiitake 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.
Pho Chandler4055 South Arizona Avenue, #8, 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 it offers a rather small bowl of pho (at least in comparison to the other spots on the list), it doesn't skimp on ingredients. The soup is overloaded with the standard ingredients of carrots, bok choy, onions, broccoli, and cabbage — which is further accompanied by a big plate of bean sprouts, basil, and jalapenos. A bowl with full flavors makes us quickly forget the size and eat up all the tasty beef and veggie soup.
Editor's note: This story was originally published on July 30, 2013. It was updated on November 21, 2019. Nina Gruber contributed to this article.