Yes, It’s Time for Pho. But Where?
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