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MSP---- Good Spot for a Pho Virgin?

Any of the many, many places on University Ave. particularly good for a pho first timer? I’ve never had pho, but from the little I’ve read it sounds like the kind of food I’d love. I guess I'm looking for a friendly place were I won’t feel too stupid not knowing just what or how to order. Any tips or guidance from my fellow Twin City hounds would be greatly appreciated...


Uncle Ira

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  1. Pho Ca Dau, at 439 University Ave W (corner of University and Arundel). Pho is all they do, and in my opinion they have the best broth of anyplace I've tried. I go for the #10, rare beef and brisket. That's a good basic one to try if you're not quite up yet for the tripe/tendon combos. There's no ambience to speak of (okay, it's a complete hole in the wall), but man that is some tasty, tasty pho.

    1. i am sorry that quang is not on university, but it is my rec for tc pho. :)

      nic ave & 27th, across from shuang hur grocery and up the street from rainbow chinese

      1. My personal favorite is Saigon Resaurant on the corner of University and Dale.

        1. I'll second Saigon. If I'm remembering correctly, they'll sort of point you to a seat and give you a menu. Then for paying I think you just go right up to the cash register and they'll have your bill, no need to wait for it to be delivered to your table.

          Jasmine Deli on Nicollet is probably the most Westerner friendly spot. All the staff speak perfect and clear English and the menu is really clear and simple. It's not the best pho in my opinion, but a good place to dip your toes in.

          1. Haven't tried Pho Ca Dau, but will, given mcgeary's rec.

            My favorite place for pho is Trieu Chau at 500 University Ave. W (the cross street is Mackubin), with Saigon (at University and Dale) coming in a close second.

            Of those I've encountered, all the staff at Saigon and most of the staff at Trieu Chau speak English so you can ask them about the menu. Also, the menus at both places include a list (in English) of the meats in each pho version. If you're put off by items such as tripe, tendons, and/or fishballs, I'd recommend ordering phos with beef brisket and/or flank to start with, and branch out from there on subsequent visits.

            1. I eat fish but not other meats. I've love to hear some recommendations for Vietnamese places along University and elsewhere that have other fish-based Vietanamese soups like Bun Oc, Bun Rieu or even Bun Tom Chu Thit Nac. I've also heard that Saigon and some other places do Bahn Mi with mock duck or tofu - much like Jasmine Deli but haven't been able to check it out. Can anyone verify this? Thanks!

              3 Replies
              1. re: misterpatrick

                RE: Saigon's bahn mi, not sure about the mock duck or tofu, but I know they will do a veggies-only version.

                1. re: diesel

                  Saigon definately has a tofu version (along with the veggie) - and they may have a mock duck version as well, but I don't remember off the top of my head. I suspect that if you asked them to do it, they would.

                2. re: misterpatrick

                  It's nowhere near University, but Kimson's on Lyndale in Bloomington does a seafood pho with scallop, shrimp, and squid in a really yummy broth. It's probably worth asking about at any pho place.

                3. I don't know where in St. Paul Pho 79 is, but I like their Nicolett Ave counterpart alot (located next door to Seafood Palace). Their lemongrass chciken wings are also very good. In Lowertown St Paul, Tanpopo Noodle Shop is also good. Sorry, I know these are not located on University Ave.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: bluesman13

                    Tanpopo does not serve pho, their soups are Japanese and include soba or udon noodles. They're all delicious, but not pho.

                    1. re: bluesman13

                      The Saint Paul Pho 79 is on Energy Park off of Raymond Avenue. Not too far off of University.

                      1. re: bluesman13

                        The one time I tried Pho 79, I was extremely disappointed. The noodles were overdone, and were a gloppy, large mess.

                      2. I second Saigon on University and Dale..It's what Quang used to be when it was across the street in the little strip mall. Saigon is so fresh. amazing.

                        1. For a first-timer, I'd recommend a place like Que Nha (University at Victoria) or Hoa Bien (University at Lexington). The staff at these places is extremely novice-friendly and good at explaining the food - like what to do with the condiments and the plate of basil and lime and sprouts that appears with the pho. (I'd explain, but I'm not sure I know the "proper" way of adding things to pho - I just dump in the things that taste good to me.)

                          This is not to imply - definitely not - that other places aren't equally as friendly and helpful. It's just that I've encountered exceptionally friendly and helpful waiters at both Que Nha and Hoa Bien.

                          For example, I'll bet that Pho Ca Dao is just as nice, staff-wise, but I haven't been there yet. (I'm so ashamed! But I have to drive past all these other Vietnamese restaurants on the way, and I get sidetracked before I ever get there...)


                          1. In my opinion, the best tasting pho can be found at KinhDo in uptown. Get the chicken kind. Their broth is by far the most savory and flavorful of any that I've tried. This opinion has been seconded by my Hmong friends, who KNOW THEIR PHO!!! :)

                            Everyone seems to be crazy about Quang, but I wasn't that impressed with theirs.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: SungSook

                              I also really like the pho there. it was a pleasant surprise!

                              1. re: SungSook

                                I also second KinhDo for Pho! Downside: they don't have a veggie/tofu version. Meat only. My friend Ming recommends Quang, he likes their style since it's like what he grew up with.

                                1. re: PastryPrncss

                                  The one in uptown does! Just ask for vegetable pho, and they will throw in broccoli, carrots, cabbage, and all sorts of deliciousness!

                              2. Well, I was holding off mentioning Saigon Star in Roseville (it's in a strip mall--the one called Crossroads, I think) because it wasn't on University Ave as originally requested, but this thread seems to be turning into the all-purpose Twin Cities pho thread, so I don't want it to get left out because I think it's a nice little spot, especially for those who lean slightly St. Paulish.