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Good Pho in Bethesda/Rockville area?

I have a friend who just moved to Bethesda and is looking for a quality pho place, trying to find one closer than driving out to Seven Corners or other places in VA. Ideas???

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  1. Head north on Rt 355 past the Beltway. Turn right on Nicholson after White Flint Mall. Go down the hill and up the next hill and go through the light at Nebel. As you begin to go down the hill again, there is a big lighting store on your left. To the right of that is a small strip mall with a video game store and a Enterprise Rental Car shop. Next to that is a new Vietnamese place specializing in Pho that is pretty good.

    On the other hand, I usually head all the way up to Ritchie Center for Pho 75.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Pappy

      I know the place near white flint is more convenient to you, Pappy. Do you think the pho at pho75 (which I think is actually further north than the ritchie center--I think that one is Pho 9x?) is that much better? I often shop at My Organic market and have been tempted to try out that pho place across the street before shopping.

      1. re: Smokey

        Pho 95 is at Ritchie Center, and I think it's pretty bad.

        Pho 75 is another mile further north, past Rte 28 on the east side of the street. Same shopping plaza as China Bistro, just south of Flagship Car Wash and Montgomery College.

        I haven't tried the place on Nicholson yet, but Pho 75 rocks.

        1. re: DanielK

          Having tried all 3 - I would rate them as #1 Pho 75 then #2 Pho 95 (95 especially if you have friends who want to eat Non-pho), then #3 the Pho on Nicholson next to the car rental / Korean Massage & Acupuncture place.

          1. re: chew

            I go to the Pho on Nicolson drive about twice a month because it's really good and it's convenient for me. My parents, however goes to Pho 75 and they swear by it. I've also been to Bale and I would recommend against the pho there BUT get the RIce Crepe with roasted pork. That dish alone is worth a take out.

    2. Daniel has the names and locations right. It's Pho 95 in Ritchie Center and Pho 75 another mile or two up the road.

      I agree that Pho 75 is best. But if I recall correcly, it's tough to park at Pho 75, Pho 75 only has communal tables, Pho 75 only serves Pho, and Pho 75 does not serve beer. Is that still the case Daniel?

      Personally, I hate driving that extra mile or two through Rockville, it's sometimes tough to find parking there, my wife hates communal tables, my kid likes grilled lemongrass chicken on rice noodles instead of pho, I can't have pho without 2 Singhas to drink with it, and I disagree that Pho 95 sucks.

      The Vietnamese place on Nicholson is fine. Certainly, again, not as good as Pho 75 for pho, nor probably as good as Pho 95, but it saves you the entire way up the Pike, and on a Saturday afternoon, that means a lot, even to a Chowhound.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Pappy

        You're right, it can be tough to park at Pho75, they only have communal tables (although i don't recall ever having to actually share), they only serve pho, and I don't know about their liquor license situation.

        Thanks for the additional info on the place on Nicholson. Helps to put it all in perspective (and I understand the desire not to drive up the pike on Saturday afternoon).

        1. re: Pappy

          You got the details right for Pho 75. I'm coming from Potomac, west of the Pike, so the two places are pretty equidistant to me.

          I had a dreadful meal at Pho 95 maybe 2 months ago. Appetizers, pho, entrees - everything was just terrible. I'd have to be convinced that things had radically changed to go there again.

        2. Thanks, all... a few good options to pass on to my friend. Much appreciated!

          1. Coming north on the Pike tonight, and needing something rather quick for dinner, I took one for the team and went to the Pho place on Nicholson tonight.

            My quick impression: ok, but nothing special.

            Pluses: no communal tables (though they have a huge percentage of the tables set as 8-tops, so I'm guessing they might go communal during weekend lunch), liquor license, abundant (though PITA) parking, and they take credit cards!

            Summer rolls were large, and the shrimp very good, but the wrappers were a touch on the stale side. The peanut sauce was too sweet, and didn't have any crushed peanuts in it.

            Pho broth was salty, and not as rich as Pho 75. But very edible. I got the #1 and added meatballs. Meats were very good, veggie plate was fresh and abundant.

            Service was ok - they seat you and take the order quickly, but you have to mug two servers to get a water refill.

            If I were in the neigborhood, I wouldn't object to going. You can definitely get a better bowl 3 miles up the pike, but as Pappy points out, that can take 20 minutes on a busy day...

            1 Reply
            1. re: DanielK

              Wow, thanks Daniel... My friend spent a fair amount of time in Vietnam, new to the DC area. Sounds like Pho 75 is worth the slight inconveniences, though the Nicholson place is fine if he wants some place easier for him to get to. Thanks again!

            2. Wow! That was fast Daniel! I think we're in agreement here. I don't think any general Vietnamese place can compete with a strictly Pho place when it comes to pho, so hearing that you got something pretty acceptable is about what I expected. The other faults I think have to do with low volume. I've never been in that place on Nicholson and seen more than a handful of table taken. That usually equates to staler, drier wrappers on the summer rolls and a whole host of other modest weaknesses.

              Btw, I haven't been to Bob's Shabu yet. Or the Korean Tofu place that Steve S and Marty L wrote about. Let me know if you'd like to try it for lunch one day after the holiday. I'd be happy to meet you there. You can access me through PM on that "other" board. Smokey, are you ever free for lunch in R-ville?

              2 Replies
              1. re: Pappy

                Yeah, I work at Shady Grove and 270, so Rockville is good for me (unlike the VA lunches). My availability is spotty, that's all. The tofu place is great. Went for dinner with a group that included DanielK and somebody who was able to help us navigate some question marks and experience a (reasonably) wide swath of the menu. I would happily go there again (particularly as the weather gets colder and a spicey soup seems even more appealing). Bob's shabu-shabu would definitely be appealing as well.

                1. re: Smokey

                  Smokey, you work pretty close, so I'll mention there's a new Pho place in the shopping center at 28 and Quince Orchard Rd (between the Fuddruckers and Neal's bagels). I know nothing about Pho, but just thought I'd mention since it is a possible lunch destination for you. They also have bubble tea on the menu (another thing I know nothing about!).

              2. ANY Pho in the Bethesda Area?

                1 Reply
                1. re: gorayomd

                  I've been getting Pho at Balle Vietnamese Deli on 355 in Rockville. Also good Hue style beef soup. Don't know about the place on Nicholson Lane anymore, but when I went there it was run by expat Koreans from Vietnam. Wasn't bad.

                2. I really like the Pho in a Vietnamese place on Rockville Pike, across from Wintergreen Plaza. If you're going north from Bethesda, it's before Pho 75 & 99. I forgot the name of it. It's not exactly new, but hasn't been in business as long as Pho 75. They also serve other foods and bahn min, but the sandwiches aren't as good as the ones I had in Brooklyn. Their Iced coffees are the best on the Pike because I like them strong, not too sweet, cold and very filling. I really recommend this place over the other Rockville Pho places. The broth is light, herbal, flavorful and the noodles are always cooked well. I also loved their spicy beef pho soup. It spicy as heck, but the chili doesn't overpower the overall taste.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: saiboogu

                    That would be Bale (misspelled in the post above yours). Their entire menu is pretty tasty. I really like their shrimp and pork salad.

                      1. re: Lydia R

                        Has anyone had the bun at Ba Le? I always get a sandwich, but I'm looking to branch out and bun is my favorite...

                        1. re: caphill2320

                          I've never gotten anything other than bahn mi there!

                  2. The absolute best pho on the MD side of the river, without even a close rival, is at Pho VN1 on Route 1 in Beltsville. No, it isn't Bethesda or Rockville. It is about 20 minutes from Bethesda except at rush hour or if there is an accident on the Beltway. Otherwise, it is well worth the drive. I've tried all the other places mentioned here so far and while some are quite good, none are remotely as phenomenal as Pho VN1.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Just Visiting

                      I ate there for the first time this week and it's as good as everyone here is saying. I've been going to Pho 88 (just up the road in Beltsville) for a couple of years and never tried VN1 before. I guess it's further away from me and easy to drive by. 88 is also excellent, so now I have two great local pho places to choose from.

                      If you go to VN1, try their fresh limeade ("fresh lime juice" on the menu). I'm going to try the fresh lime soda next time.

                    2. at first i used to go to Pho 75 but it was kind of untidy. I now go to Pho Nam on Shady Grove Road and the food is just as good and the place is nicer looking

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: dining with doc

                        I don't know Pho Nam, but I do know that judging a place by how it looks is a often a good way to end up missing out on the best food. I've got a lot of my best meals from hole-in-the-wall joints (although I have to admit, I like the atmosphere of those places as well as the food so it's not like I'm sacrificing anything).

                        But Pho Nam might be good anyway.

                        I do know that Pho 75 is excellent. Their broth is definitely the most flavorful, the meats are very well sliced, and the iced coffee (with condensed milk) is great - I always order it and I'm no coffee lover. Also, their side of onion in vinegar is surprisingly good - and one is enough for the table.

                        1. re: icejew

                          the food at both places are basically identical, including the coffee. That is why I made the change from Pho 75 to Pho Nam. I also love going to crummy but good places. Nevertheless, my bet is that if you try Pho Nam you will no longer go to Pho 75. The place is also crowded at lunch time

                          1. re: dining with doc

                            I have to disagree. I don't think Pho Nam is as good as Pho 75. Their broth just never seems as rich to me. It wasn't bad (I've been twice, once weekday lunch and once weekend), but given the choice, I'd choose Pho 75.

                              1. re: beauxgoris

                                Sorry. I keep trying all the new places that open up, but I only keep going back to Pho 75.

                                Still only pho on the menu, still cash only, still no liquor license, still communal tables, and still the best pho around.

                                1. re: DanielK

                                  Have you been to Pho Reston 75? I did day-by-day face-offs somewhat recently. Pho 75 in Herndon gained some points it had lost some years ago in my book, but Pho Reston 75 still bested them (again - in my book). Just curious if you've tried them.

                                  1. re: Dennis S

                                    Dennis, I haven't yet, and I know that you're referring to my comments in another topic, but the OP was specifically asking Rockville/Bethesda.

                                    Quality definitely varies within the local Pho 75 chain. I think Langley Park and Rockville are best, Falls Church a little behind, and Arlington lags considerably. Haven't been to the Herndon outpost (nor the Philly locations!)

                              2. re: DanielK

                                Pho Nam isn't bad (and they have spring rolls!) but Pho 75 is definitely still the clear winner.

                                Pho and Grill in Gaithersburg is relatively new but it's merely ok. Their grilled dishes are way better than their pho.

                                Pho Nam
                                15942 Shady Grove Rd, Gaithersburg, MD 20877

                                1. re: reiflame

                                  In Bethesda, I love Rice Paddies Grill for their summer rolls, and pork noodle bowl. I am not a big pho-fan but the person I go there with likes it.