Young and Hungry

Yes, It’s Time for Pho. But Where?

pho at toan

A friend of mine has been in the mood for pho. And the winter blast we're having makes for a perfect excuse to go seek out the traditional Vietnamese soup. I've been thinking of pho places accessible by public transit and within a 20-minute Metrorail ride of downtown D.C. I'm catching a movie tonight, and I'm pondering my options.

  • Pho 75, the pho-only, cafeteria-style restaurant on Wilson Boulevard between the Rosslyn and Court House stations, immediately comes to mind. Pho 75 is cash-only and features shared table seating, which really seems to upset some folks (tough luck, quite your bellyaching), but here's what The Washington Post's Tom Sietsema wrote five years ago about the place: "Pho 75's dining hall is not much to look at, just row after row of tables in a utilitarian box, and the service, while speedy, can vary from cheerful to sullen. But in all likelihood, you'll be too busy slurping your meal-in-a-bowl ($5.45) to care." I wonder if those prices have stayed the same. It's been awhile since I've been there and seems like a top contender to check out tonight.
  • Those particular about their pho seem to generally poo-poo Cleveland Park's Nam-Viet outpost. But it's been a generally reliable place when I want Vietnamese that's nearby and when I've wanted something more than just pho. And I've always liked gawking at the collection of pictures of all the famous patrons on the wall, including one of then-Attorney General Janet Reno awkwardly holding a baby. Because Nam-Viet serves more than just pho, you can have a much larger meal if you like. But with pho, what's the point in overstuffing yourself with distractions? It's definitely convenient, regardless of anything else.
  • Pho 14 in Columbia Heights gets good marks and is definitely within my downtown-proximity window, but has a reputation for being packed. (Washington City Paper readers named best pho restaurant earlier this year.) Maybe Pho Viet up the street instead?
  • Minh's on Wilson Boulevard in Arlington is another option. Washingtonian says it's "one of the area’s preeminent destinations for Vietnamese cooking," but doesn't mention anything about pho. I've been to Mihn's a handful of times in the past few years and have never ordered pho there. And while it's not good to put all one's faith in the Yelp community for guidance, but one common Mihn's-related thread you see pop up is "go to Pho 75" instead for pho.
  • Now, I really want to go to Toan in Montgomery County. But that's not going to happen, because it's no longer in business. Which is sad. Just read this mouth-watering Tim Carman description from Jaunary:

    The pho at Toan goes down like liquid foie gras. Or pâtè soup. Or rendered beef marrow. You get the idea: The broth is slippery rich. It's so rich, flavorful, and full bodied, in fact, that I feel very little need to doctor the broth with Sriracha sauce and hoisin.

    Hmmm, I'm getting very hungry for dinner. Maybe I should eat some lunch, first?

    Any pho suggestions for tonight that fit my movie plans?

    Photo of Toan's pho with added fat by Tim Carman

    • AK

      Ba Bay is rolling out some fantastic pho in Eastern market with ribeye, tendon, and tripe

    • Michael E. Grass

      Excellent idea.

    • jtonzi

      I think Pho DC is open now on H St. in Chinatown. If you're going to the Regal down there and don't want to travel too far, that may be an option. I haven't had a chance to try it yet though.

    • Michael E. Grass

      To those who are tweeting "But what about the Eden Center?" Yes, the Eden Center has plenty of options! But it's not within a 20-minute Metrorail ride of downtown D.C., per the requirements of this evening's logistics. If there is some magical express Eden Center shuttle to/from the District, that would make me very happy.

    • Simon

      Pho and a movie? Easy! Pho 75 on Arlington Boulevard in Falls Church, followed by a Bollywood rom-com at the next-door Loehmann Plaza, then head back to Banh Mi DC Sandwich for a snack. That basically describes my typical Sunday right there.

    • Nikki

      Dave McKenna and I agree that Pho Sate in Falls Church is second to NONE!

    • PGCist

      Northern PG County has pho in spades.

      Pho VN One, Pho 88, Pho 301, Pho 75 (Langley Park), Pho Saigon 54m etc.

    • grubscout65

      Saigon Bistro does a decent enough job - not good enough for Tim Carman.

    • Tom

      Pho DC is indeed open. It's a little expensive, and it's nothing to write home about. But having even serviceable pho in such a convenient location is pretty fantastic.

    • Marty

      I love Nam-Viet in Cleveland Park. It may not be the best pho place in town, but I have so many great memories there as a child. And the crispy spring rolls are amazing.

    • Jenna

      Is pho viet any good? Right now Pho 14 is my go-to pho place, but I'm always on the hunt for other options.

    • t.

      I've had Pho at Minh's--and can definitely vouch for their combination bowl, which uses pork broth instead of beef (it's richer, and is served with crab and shrimp meat as well). If not everyone in your party wants Pho--or you want to order some spring roll appetizers--Minh's is a good choice over Pho 75.

    • tomaj

      pho is all about the broth, which is complicated and takes awhile. in vietnam, the stuff simmers all night, one reason why pho is a breakfast food. the best places are those that specialize in pho and (mostly) pho only. going to a place that does mostly other types of viet food and just has pho on the menu as another choice is not a great idea.

    • David

      Well any place is Eden Center is good but if you needed to be downtown, why not Pho DC, in Chinatown, true they charge about $4 more for Pho, but they are pretty solid and given your time constraints, a fine option.

    • Jessica

      Nam-Viet in Cleveland Park or Clarendon is amazing. Best Pho I have had there, and speedy, friendly service!

    • Gloria

      What about any places in Montgomery County? Anybody can vouch for any in Rockville or Bethesda??

    • john

      Pho Golden Cow near Bailey's Crossroads is fantastic.