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Jan 11, 2009 03:57 PM

Pho in NoVA

After a decade up here, I finally decided to try pho. I had some last week (Pho Golden Cow) and it was good, but naturally I have no basis for comparison. What are some good places to try in NoVA?

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  1. Pho 75 in Rosslyn is my favorite, mostly for being right by my apartment. Servings are huge, the meat and broth flavorful, though I'd like to see some fresh cilantro and a little more lime.

    4 Replies
    1. re: mordacity

      Second Pho75, especially since I have been craving it lately, of course, I live in Arlington since it is close.

        1. re: littlew1ng

          I definitely back up Pho75 in arlington.... It's the perfect saturday morning food. It's always been a bit busy when I've gone, but it's well worth it!

      1. re: mordacity

        I adore Pho 75. I also practically live next door to it. It is one of my go-to breakfasts. If you go in the morning, the plate of limes, peppers, bean sprouts and basil is fresh instead of looking like its been sitting out for a while. Plus its not nearly as busy.

        1. re: xdcx

          Definitely would NOT recommend pho hot. They are hit and miss, mostly miss. Pitch dark broth, tastes like dead water, old meat, very off smells.

          Pho 75 definitely has a good spice profile but is definitely overrated...not that great. Always seems watered down when I eat there and they usually use way too many noodles. Not to mention they almost ALWAYS serve it to me lukewarm rather than piping hot.

          Pho 50 in Loemans plaza used to be good, but they've been watering down their broth and adding more MSG.

          Pho Cong Ly on Backlick seems to be in its prime right now. They've changed a bit, but it's still pretty damn good, probably the best in the area. They serve the pho almost Northern style, strong anise and pepper flavors, but lately they've toned it down.

          1. re: takadi

            I've been to Pho Hot a couple of times in the last two months and both times I had great pho. My favorites are Golden Cow and Pho Hot. If you're in the Golden Cow neighborhood, you can try the Pho 75 across the street (but I would skip Pho 50). Down Graham Road (at the intersection of Lee) is Pho Sate. They have crispy crullers which goes very nicely in a bowl of pho. The most flavorful meats are the brisket and well done flank, throw in some tripe and tendon if you feel adventurous.

            BTW, I'm talking about the Golden Cow at Rt 50 and Graham Road. Never been to its other branch.

            1. re: Ericandblueboy

              Pho Sate is definitely amazing. I would also try their dry noodle dishes, they are pretty good (Hu tieu I believe).

              I don't mean to be condescending, but I honestly don't get the hype about Pho 75. Yea it's been around for a while, it has a good reputation, especially outside the vietnamese community, but I feel it has gone significantly downhill since the 90's (at least when I tried it when I was younger). In fact, most pho restaurants have managed to decrease to quality of their pho lately, a notable one being pho hoa. I feel Pho Cong Ly is the only pho I've tried so far that truly expresses flavors that harkens back to the day where pho used to be really really good.

              1. re: takadi

                Pho Sate is probably the best one I've been to....I think Pho Cong Ly is alright and you might want to try Pho 495 in Sringfield too which is pretty good.

                1. re: takadi

                  What's the sauce in the small dish that they serve at :Pho Sate that I haven't seen at other pho shops? I asked the waitress once and she said "sate sauce."

                  I wasn't sure what to do with it. I tried dipping some meat into it and it was pretty tasty.

                  1. re: MikeR

                    You really can do whatever you want with it, but I love putting it directly in the pho, and I always order extra because it's so freaking awesome.

                  2. re: takadi

                    I have really bad news: I think Pho Cong Ly switched chefs. Pitch black soup, overwhelming spice, muddy flavors, a ton of's a shame. I had the best bowl of pho in more than a decade just a few weeks ago

                2. re: takadi

                  I've never had the experience you describe at Pho Hot. Our biggest complaint is that sometimes they don't have the saw-tooth leaf herb. But then again, most places in this area don't have that on the greens plate! They are currently our favorite Pho place.

                  1. re: takadi

                    Disagree on Pho Hot. We go to the one in Centreville all the time and it has been quite good.

                    1. re: ulrath

                      Not sure about the centreville location but the pho hot in annandale has a pretty bad reputation in some parts of the vietnamese community. I only remember two times where I had a good experience there, the rest was just awful

                      1. re: takadi

                        Pho Hot has been outstanding both times I've been there. Remarkably better than what is usually available elsewhere.

                        1. re: Steve

                          I guess it's a love hate situation, or perhaps I've only been there on their bad days. My uncle absolutely loves pho hot, but it seems everytime I go there, I just don't enjoy their food at all. Maybe I'm going at the wrong times, when they use stale soup or meat

                          1. re: Steve

                            I went back to Pho Hot the other day. I stand by my word

                      2. re: takadi

                        I agree about Pho Cong Ly. Even their regular chicken soup w/ noodles is very good, great broth. I think it's always been good--I think we went about 10 years ago, but we moved away for a few years and I still enjoy it. Perfect for this weather.

                        Pho Cong Ly Restaurant
                        6671 Backlick Rd, B Springfield, VA

                    2. We like Viet House (South Rt 1 - Alexandria). They serve fresh culantro (ngo gai) along with the usual basil, sprouts, lime, jalapenos, etc. read the spelling right...cUlantro. Looks different, but tastes just like cilantro. Outstanding!

                      It's in the same plaza as Fast Eddies and El Eden Mercado.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: VirginiaPepper

                        Pho Golden Cow (@ Bailey's) does too. I stuffed a whole leaf in my mouth not knowing what it was. "Mmmm... salad greens! Oh wait...." lol

                      2. Pho Reston 75 in Reston - NOT to be confused with Pho 75 (which I evade).

                        1. My wife (who is Vietnamese) and I like the pho at Pho 75 in Falls Church (near Loemans Plaza).

                          We do not, however, like the pho at the Pho 75 in Rosslyn. The two Pho 75 locations have the same name, but not the same pho. Although our home (in the Ballston area) is much closer to the Rosslyn location than the Falls Church location, we always travel to the Falls Church location for our pho.

                          Pho 75
                          3103 Graham Rd, Falls Church, VA 22042

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: ballston01

                            My pet peeve at Pho 75 is that they don't serve anything other than pho. One day I walked in the Banh Mi DC store next door and got myself a couple of cha gio, then I went to Pho 75. While I was waiting for my pho, I ate the cha gio. I was thinking about getting the fried cruller from Banh Mi DC today and bringing that to Pho 75 but I ended up at Gold Cow instead. The chicken and pork pastries at Banh Mi DC are delicious but their Banh Mi really isn't all that good.

                            Where do you guys go for Vietnamese food other than pho?

                            1. re: Ericandblueboy

                              My pet peeve is that they don't serve anything but pho and they don't to IT well.

                              1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                I think you'll find that the best pho is found at restaurants that specialize only in pho.

                                If it's banh mi you want, I recommend Ba Le Bakery in Falls Church. As to other types of Vietnamese food, that depends on what you want.

                                Bale Friends Bakery
                                2822 Graham Rd, Falls Church, VA

                                1. re: ballston01

                                  I agree. I was just asking where else to go to get authentic Vietnamese cuisine (other than pho and banh mi). The more exotic the food, the better. How 'bout stuff your wife eats but you wouldn't touch?

                                  1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                    I don't know much about food I haven't eaten. For example, I've stayed away fresh durian and from Vietnamese dishes that use a type of very fatty pork pâté, and, as a consequence, I can't tell you much about them.

                                    As to authenticity, I get the distinct impression that most of the Vietnamese food served in Eden Center is authentic.

                                    If it's something different you want, you might want to try the vegetarian food at Cafe Trung Nguyen, a hole-in-the-wall take-out place in Eden Center. When I took a trip to Vietnam a number of years ago, one of my favorite restaurants was the Tin Nghia Vegetarian Restaurant (located near the Ben Thanh Market in central Saigon). In Vietnam, vegetarian cuisine is eaten for religious reasons by certain Buddhists. Although Cafe Trung Nguyen is not as good as the Tin Nghia Vegetarian Restaurant, it's the only Vietnamese vegetarian place I know of in the Washington area.

                                    1. re: ballston01

                                      I'm pretty sure I've had non-vegetarian banh mi at Cafe Trung Nguyen. One somewhat different thing that they have (that I've never tried) is fresh sugarcane juice.

                                      My current favorite place in Eden Center is Tay Do.

                                      1. re: Lori D

                                        You're right about Cafe Trung Nguyen being non-vegetarian. I went there for the first time in a long time and found that it had changed. It's no longer vegetarian.

                                    2. re: Ericandblueboy

                                      I don't know if it's something that's icky to westerners, but Hai Duong in Eden center sells the most phenomenal Cha Ca (grilled tumeric fish).