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Pho & Great Steak

Two questions really.

Pho: Who in Austin offers the best bowl of Pho.
Steak: Who cooks up the best Prime Rib Eye / Porterhouse / KC Strip In Austin?

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  1. Using the new, improved “search this board” link at the top of the page, I pulled up several relevant threads (the first is about pho; the rest are on steak):

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/92613

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/397050

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/327792

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/336638

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/379235

    These cover the usual suspects. Was there something specific that you’re looking for—in terms of price, ambience, part of town, food combinations?

    Best,
    MPH

    4 Replies
    1. re: MPH

      I want to enjoy what the locals like. For steak, a value as well as a great prime steak, not so much a break the bank brag about it place.

      1. re: RobertM

        I've got to tell you that despite being in the middle of Texas, Austin is not the place to find a great steakhouse. You can do much better in Dallas or New York. You can find the best of what we've got in the above threads, but depending on where you're coming from, it may not be worth your time. If you want to enjoy what the locals do, you're better off exploring our excellent barbeque and Mexican options. We do have a lot of Vietnamese to offer. I think the consensus on best pho is Tan My (formerly Tan Tan). You should be able to find plenty of posts about it here. Hope that helps.

        1. re: Brian Lindauer

          Thanks for the reply. I live in DC, so we are flooded with all the white table cloth steak joints. There are a few local gems, Ray's is one, where you can get the same great steak without going broke, that I thought may abound in Texas. I will just stick to Pho, BBQ, and MexTex. But I gotta go to sonic too. None of those in my area.

          1. re: RobertM

            skip Sonic, go to Dirty Martin's. You won't be sorry.

    2. Pho: Pho Thai Son on Oltorf
      Steak: Ruth's Chris

      5 Replies
      1. re: elevenseven

        Ruth chris is probably one of the worst corporate steak houses imo. I've never had a steak properly cooked there (i've ordered both medium rare and rare, both times it arrived decidedly medium well to well - an irreversable mistake) and the lobster was a) over priced and b) flavorless. If you don't mind the corporate vibe and financial pain of chain steakhouses, try Flemings. They have a supurb mixed grill item with Lamb, Filet and Tiger shrimp (had it in Houston, may be different in Austin). Also, don't miss the fries which are doused in plenty of salt and course cracked pepper.

        1. re: foodiefound

          What you say, foodiefound, may be true; Ruth's Chris is not the best steak in the world, I would definitely agree. I love a good steak, so I've tried to keep a good head on my shoulders about who had the best quality steak in Austin. I care more about the deliciousness, and less about the fact that the place is a chain.

          In my experience, Ruth's Chris is superior to most of the other chains.

          Statistical sample size is important when evaluating places, as is duration. I'll put my first year, my last year, and approx. total # of meals at said venue when scoring them. Note: places that score really low do not get a lot of total meals for obvious reasons. Also note that some chains have multiple locations. In these cases, I've averaged them. This makes for an inaccurate data set, but I'm too lazy to go further. Also, forgive me if I'm inaccurate by +-1 year, or number of visits within an order of magnitude. Some of these places I didn't need to visit often to learn that I didn't want to repeat visit. Others had decent steak, but the price/quality ratio was out-of-whack versus the competition.

          Ranking Austin-area chains-only, solely based on steak quality:
          name -- f.year -- l.year -- t.visits
          Finn & Porter* -- 2007 -- 2007 -- 3
          Ruth's Chris -- 1999 -- 2006 -- 15
          Sullivan's -- 2003 -- 2006 -- 7
          Fleming's -- 2005 -- 2006 -- 2
          Truluck's -- 1996 -- 2006 -- 10
          McCormick & Schmick -- 2004 -- 2005 -- 2
          Carrabba's -- 1995 -- 2006 -- 20
          Roy's -- 2005 -- 2006 -- 3
          Outback -- 1999 -- 2004 -- 6
          Cool River -- 2003? -- 2003? -- 1
          San Francisco -- 1998? -- 1998? -- 1
          Saltgrass -- 2003? -- 2003? -- 1
          Texas Land & Cattle -- 2000 -- 2006 - 4
          Ryan's -- 1999? -- 1999? -- 1
          Golden Corral -- 1999? -- 1999? -- 1

          The best place on this list (F&P) is not my favorite place to get a steak in Austin. I prefer Backstage Steakhouse, Mars**, Vespaio, Wink, and (depending on my mood) Chez Nous, Enoteca, and possibly Castle Hill to F&P. These places are not chains, however, so they are not scored above.

          Bottom line: Ruth's Chris ain't bad. It is approximately tied with Sullivan's and Fleming's, in my book; I've had extremely good steak there.

          Finally, I must agree with other posters that Austin isn't the best place for steak in Texas. Fort Worth, Dallas, and Houston are all vastly superior on this front.

          * In my experience, this place isn't great: their sushi has been downright nasty, and their other items have been mediocre at best.

          ** Recent first visit to new location revealed an absurd and needless change in tenderloin prep & sauce technique. Very disappointed; steak still great, but not nearly as good as once was. Will revisit to solidify opinion.

          1. re: tom in austin

            am I reading this right....you ate steak at Carrabbas twenty times ???

            1. re: pinotho

              Same as Outback really. Just bread sticks instead of that brown bread.

              1. re: pinotho

                No. I've eaten at Carrabbas about twenty times in my life. Had steak there maybe ten.

        2. III Forks is the BEST steakhouse in Austin. Excellent food, service and atmosphere!

          1 Reply
          1. re: amykragan

            I’m afraid that I have to disagree on III Forks: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/33663...

            And tom in austin, thanks for sharing with us the hard-won knowledge you've gained on the best and worst steaks at chain restaurants.

            Best,
            MPH

          2. Nobody is talking Pho! The best place closed, and what a shame, it was called Fortune Pho and was it a treat. A steaming large bowl of vegetarian pho with extra vegetables was under $5 and big enough for two meals! But the value wasn't in the portion it was in the deliciously fresh ingrediants, the phenomenal taste and texture, the truly home style atmosphere (if your mom was a great cook and really crappy decorator!) It was my favorite downhome restaurant. But that is past tense. Present tense it is Tam Tam on Ohlen Road behind the Target (not beside, behind). Their pho is great, their bun is great--I get bun with egg roll and charcoal pork, extra crispy on the pork and it is close to Fortune Pho, not even, but close, and it also has that dump feeling that I like in a resturant that gives you more than you can eat for under $6.00!!!!!

            4 Replies
            1. re: gntlmn6464

              That place at Ohlen and Peyton Gin (aka Payton Gin) is now called Tan My. I certainly have not come close to trying every pho shop in Austin, but I've tried at least a dozen, and Tan My is my favorite followed pretty closely by Pho Hoang at Rutland and Burnet Rd. The broths at these two places are outstanding.

              Jim

              1. re: Jim Washburn

                Ok, I've got to put in my two cents on pho. My mom's Vietnamese and we immigrated over when I was really young. I grew up on the stuff.

                And the place that I've found has the most authentic pho and is even better than my mom's is the Pho Saigon next door to Saigon Market. The servers don't speak English that well so just stick to ordering by the number on the menu and they won't get it wrong. My friends who I introduced it to says the the broth is slightly better than Tan My. One friend does find the brisket too fatty for his taste at Pho Saigon but that's a matter of preference. I personally love fatty brisket. They do say that the service is better at Tan My but Pho Saigon has my money because they make a lot of the stuff I grew up with. And I don't have to make the trip to Houston and hear the constant nagging on when I'm getting married.

                Since moving down South, I've tried Pho Thai Son and I will never go back. The broth tastes just like the broth at Mekong River, bland and barely acceptable. I've been forced to make a lot of trips up North to get my Vietnamese food fix on.

                1. re: QTG

                  Pho...has to be my favorite lunch. I get Pho on the brain and find myself at times eating it for lunch every day of the work week. My boyfriend introduced me to Pho and we use to go the Pho place off the drag. I didn’t know any better, so I thought it was great. Then I stumbled across Pho Saigon in the Chinatown Center (not to be confused with the one next to the Pho Saigon market). It is in my opinion the best Pho around. My boyfriend has taken several Pho aficionados there and they reluctantly agreed, (everyone has their favorite spot). I encourage everyone to try it at least once.

                  BTW, I have had really good steaks at Eddie V's. I am also a firm believer that you do not have to go to a steak house to have a nice steak.

                  1. re: chowinginaustin

                    I have also had good luck with steaks at Eddie V's. I went in August to the north location and they had a special of a bone in, prime, 30 day dry aged new york strip that was the best steak I've ever had in Austin and one of the best steaks I've had anywhere. It was expensive at $60 but worth the price. Unfortunately, the brabant potatoes were like potatoes poached in grease, with no crust whatsoever.

            2. I want to second the recommendation, posted by QTG above, for the pho at the Pho Saigon next door to Saigon Market. I had it with fatty brisket (#25) and really enjoyed the deeply flavorful broth. On another recent occasion I tried the combo (#20), which came with steak, [very rare] flank, fatty brisket, tendon, tripe, and meatballs, although they left out the fatty brisket that day. A colleague ordered the same combo, and they left the tripe out of his. The pho came with lots of fresh basil, sawtooth herb, sprouts, lime wedges, a mixture of chopped scallions and parsley, (pickled?) onions, jalapeño slices, and a combo of Sriracha and hoisin sauce. A huge bowl cost about $5.50.

              We also tried the spring rolls with shrimp, pork, and vermicelli—then with pork and pork skin; the fried rolls with shrimp and pork; and their delicious roast-pork appetizer with the unctuously fatty meat and crunchy pork skin. Oh god, I've become addicted to their version of this dish since ordering it by the pound at Saigon Market (http://www.chowhound.com/topics/42637... ). The rolls were pretty good, too.

              I haven't methodically tried every bowl of pho in town, so it was nice to be told about a good one. Thanks for the tip, QTG.

              3 Replies
              1. re: MPH

                You're welcome, MPH. Its the only place that gives you the sawtooth herb which grows in my mom's backyard that I've found. But I have ordered regular brisket and gotten fatty before. I also didn't get periwinkles with my bun rheiu but the waitress quickly brought that out for me.

                I still haven't been to the new Chinatown center since I keep stopping at either Din Ho or Pho Saigon and never make it there. But since its on the way to Its a Jungle, I'll try the other Pho Saigon on my way to picking up an orchid or three.

                1. re: QTG

                  I look forward to your report on the other Pho Saigon, although I've really come to like the one by Saigon Market.

                  By the way, Pho Saigon next to Saigon Market is also the place which you recently recommended for bun bo hue, if I'm not mistaken. Have you tried it recently? That's next on my list.

                  1. re: QTG

                    Pho Hoang usually serves ngo gai with pho.

                    Jim