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Apr 4, 2007 10:21 PM

Review: Pho Avina - Glendale

Back in 2000, I visited a friend of mine in San Francisco. Well, Oakland, but close enough. As part of the 50 cent tour, we decided to go see the redwoods in Muir Woods north of the Golden Gate Bridge. On our way through Oakland's Chinatown, my friend stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant and grabbed us some sandwiches. This was my first time trying banh mi, but I was hooked. I've been looking for a good place to get them here in Phoenix. When I first moved here, I used to go to Avina's Restaurant at 43rd Ave and Bell. The problem is, for some odd reason, they only had banh mi on Wednesdays. There were other things on the menu that I liked, so I'd go back for lunch. The owner took a vacation to Vietnam, and after they came back, they started using frozen vegetables and that pretty much killed it for me. My girlfriend went there with one of her friends and she ordered something different that scared her, and after that, she wouldn't go back. I found some other places that I liked better and Avina's faded from my rotation.
A couple months back, I decided to try them again. I didn't recognize anyone working there, which struck me as odd, since it was usually Avina and her grandmother. Afterwards, I found that they'd sold that location (despite the sign out front still saying Avina's to this day) and moved into the old Pho Pat location at 49th Ave and Thunderbird.
Today I was in the mood for either banh mi or maybe Thai. Since Chanpen is just down the road from Pho Avina, I decided to decide on my way. Pho Avina was closer, so I went there. The new place is worlds above the old location. Nice dark wood tables and newly done walls. I got there around 1pm and there was only one person eating. There are maybe 12 or so tables. I walked up to the counter as everyone was in the back and waited. Much to my joy, they now apparently specialize in serving banh mi at lunch. They had a huge poster behind the counter with the various sandwiches and pictures. They ONLY serve them M-F, 11am-3pm. Avina came out of the kitchen, so I knew it was the right place. I sat at a table and perused the menu. They have a very extensive menu of Vietnamese food, but I wanted banh mi. I decided to get the grilled pork one ($3.50), along with an order of spring rolls ($3.00) and an order of egg rolls ($2.00). I stuck with water for a drink.
The spring rolls came out in a few minutes. They were freshly rolled, with lots of shrimp and pork. They came with a homemade peanut sauce. They were very good. I finished them and tried to ignore what appeared to be a Vietnamese version of American Idol by installing BlackBerry Maps on my Blackberry.
After 10 or 15 minutes, my sandwich arrived. I thought this odd, since they usually bring out the egg rolls right after the spring rolls. I figured they forgot them. It happens. The sandwich was great. It was a good-sized crusty French bread roll, with lots of pork, a mayonaisey sauce, pickled carrots, pickled daikon, cilantro sprigs, and three slices of jalapeno on top. If you haven't had banh mi, you need to track down a place that makes them well and try one. So many different flavors and textures. For $3.50, you can't go wrong.
After scarfing down the sandwich, I waited a few more minutes. Two other people were eating, so the kitchen wasn't too busy. I gave up on the egg rolls, and went to pay. The older lady who owns it said that my rolls were on the way and said something about the fryer. I paid and my rolls came right out. They were good, but I prefer more meat in mine. But for $2.00 a pair, they are still a good deal. I love the ones at Noodles Ranch, but they are also $5.00 for three. For a cheap lunch, I made out well. With tax, it came to $9.18. I liked the sandwich much better than the ones at Da Vang. Other than the pacing, it was a great meal.

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  1. better than davangs? mr firenza those are fighting words!!!

    nice review, i'll add that to my list of must try's!!!

    4 Replies
    1. re: winedubar

      I figured that would get your attention. But yes, they seem to contain more sandwichy goodness than Da Vang.

      1. re: Firenza00

        sure did!! seriously tho - i could be persuaded for lunch there. its not appallingly far i guess :P

        1. re: winedubar

          I think it took me 15 min or so to get there from the Amex compound via I17 and then down T-bird. It's worth the drive to prove me wrong, right? :)

          1. re: Firenza00

            it'll take me prolly 15 mins from work but np - you challenged da vangs so i'll take one for the team :D

    2. I was stoked to see that there's a good viet place in Glendale. Those hours, however, stink. So it's unlikely that I'll ever get to actually try it. Guess I'm left with tasting vicariously. Thanks for the delicious review.

      3 Replies
      1. re: grrlscout

        They are open 11am to 9pm M-Thurs, and 11am-9:30pm F-Sat, closed Sunday. The hours I listed are the only time they serve Banh Mi. Sorry for the confusion.

        1. re: grrlscout

          I believe it's actually open and serving food other than the banh mi during lunch and early evening. We haven't tried it yet since it changed, but when I passed on my way home from work the other afternoon I saw the "open" sign and the lights were on inside.

          1. re: kittyfood

            D'oh! Hard to believe I ever passed the SAT with those reading skills. I've been hunting for a place not too far from home that serves banh mi; so I'm all the more excited. I grew so desperate, I even tried to make them myself a couple days ago. The results were good, but it also stoked the desire to try a real one.

        2. Thanks for the post, Firenza. Since Saigon burned down out by me I've been looking for another pho place. Saigon had the best banh xeo I've ever found, I miss it so. Do you remember anything about their regular menu, was it very short, or did it have actual entrees on it? I ask because while pho and banh mi are divine, I'm hoping to find a place that serves other dishes, as well.

          edited -- never mind, I see you posted a link to their website, and their menu does look promising! Thanks again.

          1 Reply
          1. re: themis

            The menu is very extensive. I got a take-out one, and it's three and a half 8x11 pages, with two columns/page. There are roughly 147 items in all categories. They have the menu on the rather sparse web site I posted a few entries up from this one. I only tried the rolls and banh mi, so I'm not sure what the status of the other items are. They used to be really good before they started using the frozen veggies at the old location. I'm planning on trying other items if I can get over my banh mi lustings. :)

          2. We ate there on Friday evening. The predecessor place, Pho Pat, had a chicken curry dish that my husband loved, so he was happy to see it on the menu again. When he got it he said it had the same basic taste as the other one, but was much more diluted with coconut milk, and therefore he didn't like it as much, although he said that the broth was good just as a soup, rather than served over rice. I had bun (cold rice noodles) with pork, and liked it -- good flavor, lots of herbs and greens. We shared an order of spring rolls with Chinese sausage, and those were a disappointment. We could not taste the Chinese sausage at all (two very thin slices inside) and they were poorly wrapped and fell apart. I also did not care for the iced coffee with milk, which came out of a machine pre-mixed, and was sweeter and thicker than when it's manually mixed from the little cup of espresso and poured over ice.

            So ours is a mixed review. We will probably try it again, because it's close to home and the menu is large. I haven't tried the pho yet, which is my usual standard in a Vietnamese place.

            1. They have a "Roll Your Own" Menu, which is something I have been eagerly looking for in the Valley for a while (check my other post). So, I will definitely try them for that.

              Thanks for pointing this place out. I am excited to have maybe found my long-lost roll your own spring rolls.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Booger

                Replying to my own post...

                Finally checked this place out (but didn't try their roll-your-own menu).

                I was very disappointed, quite frankly. Had the rice noodle, chicken and egg roll bowl. The chicken and egg roll were very burnt, the chicken was grisly, and the egg roll, besides from being burnt, tasted like it had been fried in old oil.

                Quite frankly, the meal was inedible.

                I am hesitant to pan this place, since the staff seemed so genuinely nice and friendly. I wish them success, since it is hard to run a small restaurant, and they really seemed to care. They need to get their kitchen in order.

                I love that they offer bubble tea. I didn't have one during this visit, but it is nice to know that they are offered (and looked to be selling quite well).

                However, I found the food very dissappointing.