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Good Soup Dumplings/Pho in San Diego?

These are clearly two different foods, but I find myself craving them both equally. Does anyone know a place to get good xiao long bao dumplings in SD? These are the dumplings with soup inside along with some sort of meat filling. These things are addictive, and I haven't had my fix in way too long.

I've been to some of the pho spots on convoy with mixed results. Any recommendations?

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  1. there isn't a lot of places, if any to get xiao long bao in SD. You'll do better in the SGV. That said, I think Dumpling Inn on Convoy may have them.

    Better luck w/ pho, as there is a large Vietnamese contingent. Pho Hoa Cali (it just got renamed Pho Cow Cali for whatever reason) off Black Mountain Rd and Miramar has been very good, as is Pho Ca Dao on Miramar. If you do a search for "pho," you'll get other suggestions.

    4 Replies
    1. re: daantaat

      I'm a fan of Saigon on El Cajon Blvd. I realize, as with many of my choices, there may be technically better pho available, but I keep coming back here. I was not so big on Pho Hoa Cali, but I'm certainly no expert.

      1. re: daantaat

        daantaat: I believe you meant to say "Mira Mesa Blvd" vs. "Miramar"...

        In any case agree w/you on Pho Cow Cali - very competent all-across their menu - Pho, Pho Ga, Bun, Bun Bo Hue, Com Tam, Cari Ga and Bo Kho.

        Also want to suggest, if you wish a slightly more rustic style than Pho Cow Cali, Pho Lucky just across the street to the East.

        Pho Convoy (on Convoy!) in Kearny Mesa used to have a very insipid soup but now it's one of my faves! A very delicious broth with very thick slices of gan. It turned around so much that I swore they must have changed ownership. (According to them, same ownership since opening...)

        Amongst the shops that are in my rotation my clear favorite is in the most unlikely place - Pho San Marcos (in San Marcos!). The best broth I've had, excellent beef, and confidently-sized cuts of gan. It's on the NW corner of Rancho Santa Fe Rd. and San Marcos Blvd., the latter which for us "coastals" might recognize as the eastward extension of Palomar Airport Rd.

        Sorry but have to disagree with you on Pho Ca Dao, though at one time I used to go there all the time! (I find their broth to be very bland, which is ironically what initially drew me to it... Go figure!)

        1. re: cgfan

          cgfan, yes, you are correct! I meant "Mira Mesa Blvd," not "Miramar!"

          Yeah, Pho Ca Dao's broth is bland, although it's offered some variety for us from Pho Cow Cali.

          We'll have to re-tray Pho Convoy. We went several years ago and their broth was blander than Pho Ca Dao and never went back. I recall the broth was something akin to watered down chicken soup.

          Will also have to try Pho Lucky!

          1. re: daantaat

            Yeah I've been so amazed at the turn-around at Pho Convoy. I really was surprised to hear that its still under the same management given the complete 180 improvement that they had in their Pho. Hmmmm, they even have an overhauled menu...

            Regardless of the improvement I still was expecting to be disappointed when I returned for a second visit, but the improved Pho was pleasantly reconfirmed. The changes remain a mystery to me, but I'll take that mystery any day so long as I can get a good bowl of Pho!

      2. The Dumpling Inn on Convoy does a nice job with xiao long bao.

        1. KirkK is probably the closest to an authority on Pho as we have around here.

          For me, I adore the Pho at the Lucky seafood grocery store on Mira Mesa Blvd. I'm about as far as you can get from being Vietnamese, but I'd still put money down on that place offering the single best bowl of Pho broth in San Diego. Second to that, and probably more appealing all around is Pho Hoa Hiep, since it is an actual stand-alone restaurant with great consistency, and you can still get the creature comforts such as the proper egg rolls, Viet coffee, and any number of decent side dishes. It's just up the hill from Fashion Valley mall, in Linda Vista, so it maintains a very accessible and neighborhood feel.

          While I'm at it, Phoung Trang on Convoy is great for the all-around Vietnamese experience. However, the Pho there is probably the least interesting thing on the menu, because there are many good dedicated Pho joints in town, whereas a place like Phoung Trang excels at things like rice and noodle dishes, and only just happens to also offer pho.

          In any case, when it comes to Vietnamese food in SD, I break opinion with many when it comes to Saigon, which is the next most popular Vietnamese place in town after Phoung Trang. Between Pho Hoa Hiep, Lucky, and Phoung Trang, I have no need to trek out to the outer reaches of El Cajon Blvd when I need a Vietnamese fix. Because I just don't find the food to be of the same caliber. Nor the ambience. To each their own of course.

          As for xiao long bao...for me it's Dumpling Inn all the way. Add on some Kung Pao sea bass, sauteed chinese greens, chow mein with homemade noodles.....not to mention that it's BYOB too, which is fantastic since there is a Korean grocery store next door which sells great Asian beers for cheap.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cookieshoes

            LOVE Dumpling Inn and been going there for years and I go next door to the market and bring some Asian beers too..
            The store at the corner is great for Chinese herbs.

            1. re: Beach Chick

              Yeah, I normally stop in at the Korean supermarket on my way out of Dumpling Inn as well. They have some great prices on premade Korean side dishes and cuts of meat.

          2. For XLB, Dumpling Inn is okay - but also try Shanghai City and Chin's on weekend mornings, plus frozen ones from LA for sale. None are as good as in the SGV. Kirk reviews all of the above on http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/

            For Pho, you may want to check the above blog and compare your taste. But generally, going to find an ethnic food in the areas where that ethnicity lives and works is not a bad idea.

            3 Replies
            1. re: trentyzan

              Like everyone else has said Dumping Inn is probably the best in SD. I've never been impressed with the XLB at Shanghai city, they always come broken with all the soup leaked out. 168 has pretty good XLB as well although I haven't had it there for a while.

              Anyone know if Mr. Dumpling has good XLB? Been wanting to try that place for a while but haven't gotten around to it yet.

              For Pho around the Convoy area my favorite is Pho T Cali, seems that the best Pho places in SD are actually not in Clairemont Mesa.

              1. re: mliew

                Mr. Dumpling did not have XLB when they were newly open, and seemed wildly inconsistent. I had some decent house special dumplings, but it seems you have to time your visit to their level of business. The sound of double-cleaver action from the kitchen was present the last time I had a good experience. Let's hope it picks up and they expand the menu.

                168's XLB were freezer-burned and dry when I last tried them. I'd rather buy frozen from LA and do it myself. Shanghai City's better for niu rou mein, but does not always burst their dumplings. Gary Soup's also a pretty passionate resource about XLB: http://eatingchinese.blogspot.com/

                1. re: trentyzan

                  Well I finally got around to trying Mr. Dumpling tonight and it was certainly nothing worth remembering. I guess after reading Kirk's review my expectations weren't too high but when we showed up the restaurant was full of asian customers which is always a good sign.

                  They do have XLB now, which we ordered. It was ok, but the dumplings had no soup and the flavor was a little too soy saucey than most. We also ordered the "meat with tofu" clay pot which was horribly bland and the hunan eggplant which was also pretty mediocre.

                  Seems that a lot of people were having the hot pot which does seem to resemble Little Sheep's a lot.

            2. Pho Hoa at the corner of Euclid and El Cajon. The best. Hands down.