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Pho Dang in Winooski, VT: Great food

MightyFrog Oct 1, 2007 07:45 AM

I've eaten at Pho Dang three times now, and it's been consistently good. If you're not familiar with Vietnamese cuisine, it's more accessible to Western palates than most Asian food. One of the most important components is varieties of Pho, a noodle soup. I got the Pho Tai Chin Nam, a simple soup of beef broth, noodles, rare beef slices, and well done beef flank. The bowl comes with a plate of bean sprouts, basil, and cilantro for the diner to stir in to taste. I'm allergic to shellfish, but my wife assures me that the Goi Cuon Tom Thit (spring rolls with shrimp, vegetables, and pork) were fresh and tasty. A friend who hadn't tried Vietnamese food before went with the Bun Ga Nuong, grilled chicken with noodle. Nothing fancy there, but certainly fresh and good.

The restaurant's on the main road between Winooski and Colchester; I don't know if they have a separate parking lot, but even on Friday night we had no problem finding a spot on the street just a few doors down. It's a hole in the wall place, only eight tables or so, and not a destination for ambience. One of the big selling points here is price: nothing on the menu is over $8.50. A bowl of pho as big as your head costs only $6.50, and even a relatively elaborate dish like Hu Tiu Mi (pork, shrimp, quail egg, and vegetable with two kinds of noodle) runs only $7.50. If you're looking for something fresh, fast, and cheap around Burlington, check it out.

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Pho Dang Vietnamese Café
215 Main St, Winooski, VT 05404

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  1. kayejazz RE: MightyFrog Oct 1, 2007 06:06 PM

    Thank you for introducing me to this place. The food was great!

    1. Bri RE: MightyFrog Oct 2, 2007 06:23 AM

      Where is Winooski in relation to Williston? I'm there about once a week for work and usually hit Sakura Sushi or the Korean place (the name just went out of my head!). I'm a huge Pho and Bun fan and usually drive to Springfield, MA for my fix.

      Edited to add: I mapped it and its not that far. Will report back after I've tried it. Thanks!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Bri
        Bri RE: Bri Oct 5, 2007 06:54 PM

        Update - Bruno and I had a very late lunch at Pho Dang today. It was definitely a place I'll go back to whenever I'm in the area. The fresh spring rolls were really good, the dipping sauce was just slightly on the sweet side for me, but I usually add the Spiracha chili to it anyway.

        The pho with rare beef was really good; nice beefy broth and the usual generous portions I've found at Vietnamese pho houses. The only thing missing was the sliced chilies that I'm used to getting with my bean sprouts, lime, and basil.

        Also, the bun with grilled pork and egg roll was tasty, but again slightly on the sweet side (the grilled pork). I actually ordered the grilled chicken and got the grilled pork instead. No biggie for me, but I just let the waitress know that it might be an issue for someone who can't/doesn't eat pork. She was very generous and removed both lemonades from our bill, even though I told her that I enjoyed the pork and it was no big deal, she insisted. Very sweet. I thought the egg roll was a little bit cigar like and not a really robust, fat, meat and vegie egg roll, but I really only have Vinh Chau (Springfield, MA) as my comparison, and their bun w/egg roll is a really big meaty egg roll.

        The lemonades - delish! The iced coffees with condensed milk were so cloyingly sweet that I couldn't drink mine. I like it when I can control the amount of condensed milk.

        So, overall, I really, really liked Pho Dang and will definitely eat there again and again. I'll have to try some other things on the menu, because there are quite a few things that sound fantastic and it was hard to narrow it down.

      2. j
        Jayne in VT RE: MightyFrog Oct 3, 2007 09:40 AM

        I've eaten there twice and agree it is very good food. I had a word with the owner and they are very interested in feedback, so do let them know what you all think. After the number of businesses that have passed through that building, I think (and hope) this one will stay.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jayne in VT
          Morganna RE: Jayne in VT Oct 4, 2007 05:59 AM

          Next time we're in Burlington, we'll give it a go. :)

        2. d
          Dave S. RE: MightyFrog Oct 8, 2007 05:34 PM

          Thanks for the tip -- had lunch there for the first time today, and it was as good as all of the reviews. Another good Chowhound find!

          1. n
            negroni RE: MightyFrog Oct 10, 2007 11:13 AM

            Ever since the Sigon Cafe closed on Bank Street the Burlington area has needed some good Vietnamese food. Phi Doan probably helped some of the folks get started here, because she did so much to bring displaced Amer-Asians to Vermont...good for them and us. The food is authentic, tasty, quick, inexpensive, and worth waiting for. The place is very small. Support Pho Dang and it will be there for us.

            1. jhenry RE: MightyFrog Oct 14, 2007 02:32 PM

              Seven Days (a local alt-weekly here in the Burlington area) also has a nice review of this place:

              http://www.sevendaysvt.com/food/taste...

              Can't wait to try it out!

              1. j
                Jayne in VT RE: MightyFrog Oct 14, 2007 03:49 PM

                I had my 4th visit to this place last Friday for a late lunch. Looked like they had a busy service but everyone was polite and fast. Everything was as superb as always. The spring rolls are to die for. Ditch the sweet dipping sauce and combo the chili sauce with the hoisin supplied on the tables. I was in heaven. I just wish I lived closer to this place. I'd be in there more than weekly...

                1. d
                  Dave S. RE: MightyFrog Oct 15, 2007 07:57 AM

                  I went last week after reading the recommendations here. It was very good -- I look forward to my next meal there.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Dave S.
                    Morganna RE: Dave S. Oct 30, 2007 06:49 AM

                    I went just this last Friday for an early lunch. I was the only person there but that was fine with me (they'd just opened). It's very very clean and light inside, for all it's pretty small. I really liked the soup I got. I'd been warned to tell them I didn't want any cilantro in it, but I forgot when I'd ordered, so it had a lot of cilantro in it. I don't like cilantro, but I actually liked the soup -in spite- of the cilantro! So I figure next time I'll remember and it'll be even better. :)

                  2. b
                    biggirlco RE: MightyFrog Oct 30, 2007 06:56 AM

                    Just went for the first time for lunch, just what I love in a lunch spot... quick good food, cheap price and no ambiance. Not a romantic fine dining experience just really well done, good simple food and for 2 people the tab was $15. I'll definitely be going back!

                    1. Raedia RE: MightyFrog Oct 30, 2007 12:50 PM

                      What a great discovery! I would never have guessed this place would be tucked away up in Winooski. We went for my birthday lunch last week, and really enjoyed it - it was as good as the Vietnamese food I used to get in Boston. Especially liked the fresh spring rolls, and the bun with pork. The pork was several large pieces, with a sweet glaze, and additional sauce to taste. I'd get it with the egg rolls next time.

                      Has anyone tried their rice dishes? We didn't make it over to that side of the menu. If only they started serving banh mi, I'd be in heaven!

                      1. j
                        Jayne in VT RE: MightyFrog Feb 3, 2008 05:02 AM

                        We have been regulars here since it has opened but it has gone downhill fast. We love the food but there is one problem. She is either the owner, or the owner's wife, we haven't quite worked out who. She is incredibly loud (I mean REALLY LOUD), rude, and obnoxious. When you walk in and sit down, there she is shooting her mouth off and generally making the whole experience quite unpleasant. She if often looking around the restaurant to make sure everyone is paying attention and hearing what she is talking about. Usually she is nagging her work colleague from the hairdressing shop across the road about how she should lose weight and be gorgeous like her. Little does she realize how ugly this makes her.

                        The other problem we have witnessed is the standard of cleanliness. I watch the regular server often just swish the teacups under running water with no sign of soap or any kind of attempt to make sure they are actually cleaned. My last two visits have resulted in an upset tummy, so I suspect things back in the kitchen are not too sweet either.

                        As much as we love Vietnamese food, we don't love it that much.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: Jayne in VT
                          Bri RE: Jayne in VT Feb 3, 2008 08:58 AM

                          Hi Jayne, I think I know who you mean. We've been regulars there as well but only on our last visit there did we encounter this woman. She is not Asian and I got a sense that she's the girlfriend of the younger guy who's usually running the counter and taking orders. She was completely obnoxious and then started crying and creating a huge scene. It was very offputting and dramatic, but we chalked it up to being random.

                          I'm hugely concerned about the dishwashing not happening. Really? You've seen them not using soap and hot water? That's awful. We've never had any negative dining experiences after the fact, if you know what I mean. But still, proper cleaning and cooking temperatures are incredibly important. I'm appalled if that's what is going on.

                          The thing is there are SO many good eats to choose from in that area. I drive from Williston to get the pho in Winooski and I could just as easily stay right in Williston to eat a great meal at Sakura Kitchen or the Korean place whose name is escaping me right now. Which is probably what I'll do now...

                          1. re: Bri
                            j
                            Jayne in VT RE: Bri Feb 4, 2008 06:47 AM

                            Bri -- I have only witnessed poor washing of the teacups at the sink where the counter is. No soap involved at all. I don't really want to think about the dishes and chopsticks, but I AM assuming they go through a dishwasher...surely?!

                            We too have chosen Winnoski over Williston for our food lately, but there is another Pho opening, I think, pretty much around now, so there is hope. I read about it in 7days a few weeks ago.

                            I'm assuming you mean Naru in Williston?

                            1. re: Jayne in VT
                              Bri RE: Jayne in VT Feb 5, 2008 04:39 AM

                              Yes, Naru is the one. I couldn't find any references for pho at the 7 Days website (other than Pho Dang). Please let me know what the name is of the new place and I'll check it out soon.

                              Thanks!

                              1. re: Bri
                                b
                                biggirlco RE: Bri Feb 5, 2008 05:20 AM

                                It's Pho_______, can't remember but it's on North Winooski in Burlington where Global Markets used to be (in the old CCTA building on your left going into town across from the Salvation Army) I'm pretty sure it's an off shoot of Pho Dang though, so ......
                                I have to say I still like the food at Pho Dang, I've never been ill after eating there and I don't expect great cleanliness or service or ambiance in a "hole in the wall" style restaurant... not to belittle your complaints at all.

                                1. re: biggirlco
                                  Raedia RE: biggirlco Feb 5, 2008 05:30 AM

                                  Pho Hong. An article in 7 Days mentioned that the daughter of the owners used to work at Pho Dang, but I'm don't think it's otherwise related. I'm really excited to hear there's a Korean place here!

                                  http://www.7dvt.com/2007/going-global
                                  http://www.7dvt.com/2008/loads-entr-es

                                  1. re: Raedia
                                    j
                                    Jayne in VT RE: Raedia Feb 12, 2008 02:55 PM

                                    I went to the new place, Pho Hong today. Waaaaay better than Pho Dang and actually clean! The menu has more variety too so I can't wait to try all their dishes. Bri, if you don't want to go to Pho Dang anymore, I highly recommend the new place!

                                    1. re: Jayne in VT
                                      Bri RE: Jayne in VT Feb 12, 2008 03:44 PM

                                      I really do need to try the new place. Maybe they'll even have culantro and chiles for the pho. Pho Dang never has that and even said that they only eat that at home (insert baffled expression here).

                                      I'll report back as soon as I try it...

                                      1. re: Bri
                                        j
                                        Jayne in VT RE: Bri Feb 13, 2008 05:08 AM

                                        They had cilantro but no chile I'm afraid! I'm sure if you ask they will give you some. The main server is the the very sweet girl who used to work at Pho Dang when they first opened. I'm assuming it's her parents who have the new place according to the 7 days article. They came out after a busy lunch time and were very friendly and chatty about their new venture.

                                        The fresh spring rolls (can't remember the name) had mint and basil in them. Very fresh ingredients and tasty. I know Pho Dang used to put mint in them, but the last 4 times they had not. Forgot to mention they also have an organic stir fry section on their menu so they really are trying to tap into the market.

                                        1. re: Jayne in VT
                                          Bri RE: Jayne in VT Feb 13, 2008 03:39 PM

                                          All good news!

                                          I really did mean culantro and not cilantro, although I don't think I could live without cilantro. Culantro is in the same family (I think) and is long and kind of looks like dandelion, sort of. They serve it at the pho house in W. Springfield (MA) that I love so much. I can totally get into a good pho without it though, so if they don't, its good.

                                          I'll keep you posted!

                                          1. re: Bri
                                            j
                                            Jayne in VT RE: Bri Feb 13, 2008 03:53 PM

                                            Haha. Excuse my ignorance! ;)

                                            It sounds intriguing. I will have to seek that Pho house next time I'm in MA. I've never had Vietnamese food until I came to live in the US so it's all new and all good to me. :)

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