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Twin Cities: Need a Pho Update

  • m

looking for the best in either Mpls or St Paul.

Are there any comparable to what you can find in southern Calif??

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  1. It has been a couple years since i have lived there, but the stretch of university avenue called "frogtown" neighborhood is full of little viet restaurants, at least 20 in about a mile. the population of se asian immigrants is among the highest, if not the highest in the country. i used to go to one called "my Village" but i recently heard they moved into a nice formal space, so i can't vouch for it, and don't know if the are still open early. the tendon and brisket pho was great, nice and smokey with plenty of fresh toppings. perhaps a Pho-athon is in order? please post back your results!

    6 Replies
    1. re: mitch cumstein

      You're right, Frogtown is a fantastic neighborhood for chowhounding.

      Mai Village has been in that new space at least 3 years now. (Here's a link to Dara's review of it, from May, 2004: hhttp://citypages.com/databank/25/1222/article12094.asp )It is a lovely space, indeed, although it's starting to show some wear. I still love the koi pond.

      I'm no pho expert, and I've only tried Mai Village's once, but once was enough. I didn't think it was very good. I can't really explain it, but it just didn't seem that refined, or more to the point, I'm not certain there was that much care taken with it, i.e., the ingredients were cut into rather large, not very uniform pieces. I'm certain there's better pho to be had in the Twin Cities...

      EDIT: I realize I've just done one of those things that annoy me when others do it and that's that I discouraged someone else's recommendation without offering any alternatives. Not cool. I haven't tried all of the chowhound favorite places for pho recently enough (hey! it's been 90+ degrees out!) to say which is "the best" and, since I've never had pho in Southern California, I'm really not in a position to comment on that part of Mark's request, but places where I think the pho is better than Mai Village's include pho 79, Saigon Star (in Roseville), and, even, the much discussed as of late pho at Ngon Bistro. But, again, I haven't been out for pho to a lot of the other favorites for a long time.

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        dug around and found a couple places that are supposed to be good...can't vouch personally though

        Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
        799 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55104, USA

        Pho Ca Dau is--across from Little Szechuan & Mai Village

        1. re: mitch cumstein

          Pho Ca Dao is my current favorite place for pho. The place is a dive, but their pho is great.

          I haven't tried the pho at Ngon, yet - some report euphoria and some don't like it. I loved my Ginger Tofu over rice noodles (it was too hot for pho the night I was there.)

          http://www.chowhound.com/places/85

          Anne

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          Ngon Vietnamese Bistro
          799 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

          1. re: AnneInMpls

            Forgot the places link for Pho Ca Dao.

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            Pho Ca Dao Restaurant
            439 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103

            1. re: AnneInMpls

              As long as I'm adding Places links, here are the others mentioned above. Plus a duplicate link for Pho Ca Dao with the right name (both have links to discussions of interest).

              Anne

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              Pho Ca Dao Restaurant
              439 University Ave W, St Paul, MN 55103

              Saigon Star Restaurant
              2480 Fairview Ave N, Roseville, MN 55113

              Pho 79 Restaurant
              2529 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

              Pho 79 Restaurant
              2233 Energy Park Dr Ste 800, Saint Paul, MN 55108

        2. Saigon Cafe and Bakery on University in St Paul is tops for my wife and me. Our preferred Mpls joint is Pho 79, followed closely by Pho Tau Bay. They are the most uncompromisingly authentic, which means lots of chewy stuff available if you like it that way, and most closely resembling what we eat when in Vietnam. The others mentioned above are all good, but are more a mixed bag of surprises. Mai Village, Saigon Star and Ngon are aimed at non-Asian customers and tastes, Pho Ca Dao is good, but can be wildly inconsistent. We were just there Saturday and it was terrible (again).

          11 Replies
          1. re: HuaGung

            I love Saigon - how could I have forgotten it? They have great pho. And I would have recommended Pho Tau Bay, but I've never actually had their pho - just the noodle salads.

            Thanks for the info on inconsistency at Pho Ca Dao. I must have been there on a good day - I'll keep my fingers crossed for my next visit. The pho I had was so good that it's worth the risk...

            Anne

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            Saigon Restaurant & Bakery
            704 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

            Pho Tau Bay
            2837 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

            1. re: AnneInMpls

              I've never tried the pho at Saigon...I can't seem to get past their fantastic, made to order sandwiches! I've heard good things about Saigon's pho from The Chowish Lurker, so I know I definitely need to try it!

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                Another must-try item at Saigon: The grilled pork spring rolls. Wow, are these things fabulous.

                Anne

            2. re: HuaGung

              I've only had the Pho at Saigon once and it was very good then. I have a question regarding Pho 79 though - where is the one you are talking about, and is it the same location as/or the same owner as Pho 79 that's located on Raymond and Energy Park Dr, just off of 280 - technically in St. Paul, but on the border of the cities for sure. (Never been there, nor have I ever noticed it by name before, until driving to avoid detours and construction last weekend.) Also, if different, is the St. Paul location still considered the same good quality as the Mpls one??

              1. re: tart1

                I have the vague feeling that the Raymond St. Pho 79 has different owners or managers than the Minneapolis one. Not sure how different the food is, as I haven't been the Mpls restaurant for years. The Raymond St. place is fine, but not stellar in the pho department. In an old post, I said it was my "fourth favorite Vietnamese place that I can walk to." (I can easily walk to four Vietnamese restaurants...) I like Pho 79, but I wouldn't drive across town to eat there.

                Saigon and Ngon and Trung Nam and Pho Ca Dao, now - those ARE worth driving across town for.

                Anne

                1. re: AnneInMpls

                  Funnily enough (given my St. Paul bias), I've only ever been to the Minneapolis pho 79...

                  ~TDQ

              2. re: HuaGung

                Another lover of Saigon chiming in. Definitely give it a try, and make sure to order the grilled pork springrolls too!

                1. re: HuaGung

                  HuaGung, I know this is a very belated question, but I'm just re-reading your post here and I realize you made no mention of Quang--either as being "authentic" or "not-authentic." Just curious where it fits on your scale of good and authentic. I finally made it to Pho Tau Bay I do like it very much. Didn't try the pho, though! That's okay--there will most certainly be a next time (or two, or three...)

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    TDQ-
                    We actually go to Quang's frequently, but not for the pho. My wife does not care for their pho much at all. We love the grilled sausage spring rolls, the curry soups, grilled pork chop plates, etc. We like their bun cha too. Saigon still gets our pho business in St Paul and Pho 79 in Mpls.

                    1. re: HuaGung

                      Thanks for that, HuaGung--I was just curious. I still love Saigon, too. I hope they don't move far when they eventually do relocate...and that their moving it doesn't impair the delicious food in any way.

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Every time I go in to Saigon (which is at least weekly) I ask about the move. As of last week, they still hadn't found a new place. Also, they assured me that they wouldn't move far - they want to stay in the neighborhood. So: no move in the imminent future, and if/when said move occurs, it probably won't be too far. yay!

                2. Two places in St. Paul tie for my "top pho" vote: Saigon and Trieu Chau.

                  Saigon was mentioned by earlier posters.

                  I'll add a place link for Trieu Chau:

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                  Trieu Chau Restaurant
                  500 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

                  1. i like quang on nicollet ave mpls for pho.

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                    Quang Pastry & Deli
                    2719 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

                    1. I just had the Pho at Ngon and I certainly would be willing to vouch for it...I will be going back just for the Pho. Plus, I was there late at nite and they were closing and a guy came in begging...literally, for some Pho. They said the kitchen was closed and he was like "I'll take it to go, just puhleeeese!" It was hilarious! That little incident alone should speak volumes about their Pho!

                      1. MarkG -
                        It would be really cool for you to post your favorites once you've tried the suggestions.

                        1. I'm a regular at Quang and Kimson's, and they both are really good. Quang has a more commercial, refined taste to their pho, with a variety of different ingredients. Kimson on the other hand boasts their excellent broth and homestyle cut meats.

                          -----
                          Quang Pastry & Deli
                          2719 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

                          Kimson Vietnamese Cuisine
                          8654 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55420

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: David_Minh

                            Thanks for this info, David! I really need to get to Kimson to try the Pho. I dissed Kimson recently (in another thread), based only on a buffet lunch a few years ago. I need to go back and try again. Good pho is rare in the southern suburbs.

                            Anne

                          2. I'm a pho newbie but have recently tried it at both Ngon and Mai Village.

                            Ngon: We went here because of all the raves and were really pleased. I had the beef ball pho, their beef balls were really tasty and tender, good texture. Purely aesthetically, the big, thick-sided, wide mouth bowl it was served in was really satisfying to dig into. I did not have any of the problems some people have talked about: the basil/bean sprouts/add-ins were fresh and plentiful, the server was prompt and helpful but didn't hover. I don't have much of a base to compare to but I thought the broth was delicious, sweet, salty, very flavorful. My boyfriend got the combo beef pho which he enjoyed.

                            Mai Village: I was really pleasantly surprised by this place, I had no idea the interior was so elaborately decorated. Yes, it has definitely captured the non-asian customers who might not otherwise venture into one of the other "dive" places on university but I still thought the food was pretty tasty. Beef pho again: the broth was tasty, maybe a bit more watery than ngon but similar. the beef balls were tougher, not as good. I wasn't sure what the other two cuts of beef were, one was thinner (almost like deli meat) and not all that flavorful but tender, the other was 1/4 thick slices (a loin? i don't know my meat) and had a nice beefy flavor. All in all I was perfectly happy and ate the whole thing, it's good but definitely not out of this world for me.

                            1. Another vote for Saigon on University in St. Paul. Always consistent, fast service, and lots of options! You can't go wrong.

                              1. Quang's sea bass and shrimp pho, available only on weekends, is absolutely divine and very addictive!

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Enso

                                  I second Enso about Quang's sea bass soup, although it's technically not Pho.

                                  Quang's sea bass soup is one of the best food items to order in Minnesota.

                                  My siblings (we're Chinese/Vietnamese), who live in Boston and NY come back for Christmas every year and we go to Quang's on Christmas day (although it was closed this year).

                                  Anyways, they can't find this sea bass soup anywhere in the country and they have a craving for it every year. It's some combination of generous portions of sea bass, the noodles, and the fried onions floating in heavenly broth, with a few shrimps for good measure.

                                  I had to get them take-out for the sea bass this year.

                                  Seriously, don't miss this soup. Yeah, and don't go on a Sunday night; they've usually run out (presumely of sea bass) by then.

                                  1. re: Sammiches

                                    Perhaps I'm living on the edge, but I'm usually able to get the sea bass soup early on Sunday evening. It's what I usually order when we go (around 5-5:30) on Sundays.

                                    1. re: bob s

                                      Seafood Pho at Kimson in Bloomington. It's gooda.