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Looking for best pho in Philadelphia

Craving pho - where should I go?

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  1. I really like Pho Ha at 6th & Washington. Nam Phuong (11th & Wash) is my second favorite, but not a pho joint like the others. Can't go wrong with the others down there like Pho Hoa, Viet Huong, and Pho 75, but I think they are not as good.

    13 Replies
    1. re: barryg

      So, after reading the dizzying amount of great information on this thread, I have two unique questions. I noticed that Pho 75 is closed, and am wondering if Nam Phuong is still the recommended spot for great Pho? I grew up in Minnesota, and we have one of the largest Hmong populations outside of Laos/Vietnam. So I was spoiled by very very very good, authentic, non-MSG (yes it is possible), aromatic, and perfect bowls of Pho. What's still open and good? (MSG or non-MSG?)

      Also, my roomie has never had Pho, which I think is a travesty. There is one little hitch though- she doesn't eat beef or pork. Dare I ask if there is a place with great and authentic Pho where I can get my beef brisket, tendon, tripe, round eye, flank steak and she can get a vegetarian or NON-BEEF OR PORK broth option?

      Thanks Chowhounders!!!!

      1. re: linfr21

        Don't hold me to it, but I think Nam Phuong has a chicken pho.

        75 is closed? boo!

        1. re: linfr21

          Pho 75 in chinatown closed but the one on Washington Ave is still open.

          Pho Ha and Pho Hoa both definitely have good pho ga (chicken pho). You can specify if you want dark or white meat, the dark usually has bones so if you have a preference one way or another make sure to specify. I never heard of pork pho but Nam Phuong and Pho Hoa both have huge noodle soup menus with all kinds of soups similar to pho with different broths... Pork, seafood, etc. Pho Ha also does shrimp pho, but that is the beef broth with shrimp instead of beef in it.

          1. re: linfr21

            Pho 75 in CHINATOWN closed. The other two Adams Ave and on Wash. are OPEN

            1. re: ken from conshy

              Pho 75 is a chain... (not sure if it is a franchise or all company owned.) They have multiple stores in the greater Washington DC area in both MD and VA in addition to their two locations in Philadelphia.

              1. re: ken from conshy

                Woopsies my bad! Pho 75 Chinatown closed the rest are open for business!

                Regard Pho Ha and Nam Phuong, I saw that they had chicken pho and other non beef options but wondered if the broth is also not beef based? My roomie cannot eat any beef or pork period. Including in the broth! (I would die. I love beef).

                1. re: linfr21

                  Yes pho ga is chicken broth, always. The other soups you should ask, the broth can vary. I think Pho Ha might have some sort of tofu pho but I don't see the point in that if you are looking for something authentic for someone who never had pho... pho ga is the way to go for non-beef.

                  1. re: linfr21

                    Pho Ga (pho with chicken) is available at most pho places. I have had it at Pho and Beyond (Willow Grove) and Pho 75.

                2. re: linfr21

                  Cafe Pho Ga Thanh Thanh

                  2539 Kensington Ave

                  Philadelphia, PA 19125

                  (215) 427-0483

                  Yes, in Kensington neighborhood under the El! the chicken pho is excellent. Tender fresh chicken. They get the chicken across the street (fresh live chicken/poultry market).

                  Also, just across the street...

                  Thang Long
                  2534 Kensington Ave.

                  Website and menu: http://thanglongphilly.com/about-pho/

                  1. re: SpdRcr069

                    BUBBLE TEA!!!! OH I HAVEN'T HAD THAT SINCE I WAS IN NYC!!!!! You just made my day.

                    1. re: linfr21

                      There is a dedicated bubble tea place on 11th & Snyder.

                      1. re: Philly Ray

                        Cups & Chairs at 5th & Passyunk makes good bubble tea, too.

                  2. re: linfr21

                    Most Vietnamese restaurants have a chicken pho now.

                3. while it isn't a pho joint, my favorite bowl is at nam phuong on 11th b/n washington and ellsworth. have enjoyed a good bowl of pho at all of the following places:

                  pho ha
                  pho hoa (a viet friend swears by this place)
                  pho 75 (both)
                  pho xe lua
                  vietnam (restaurant and palace)

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: mazza3

                    I've tried a lot of Pho in Chinatown and Pho75 continues to be my favorite.

                    1. re: discndav

                      i agree as far as chinatown goes....:)

                      1. re: mazza3

                        and i have an update - do not go to vietnam for pho. some other commenter said that it was crappy, but it was on my good list. either i haven't eaten the pho there in a while (which i haven't) or they have simply changed it up (for the worse), but the pho there straight up sucked last night. the meat was disgusting and the noodles were mush. the broth had an off smell and the only good thing was the basil and the hot sauce. revised rankings, if i had to recommend three sure things: nam phuong, pho 75 (chinatown) and pho hoa (washington ave)....ugh, was so disappointed....

                        1. re: mazza3

                          Agreed. It used to be the best Vietnamese restaurant in town, and now it's just too westernized and bland. And the portions shrunk.

                    2. re: mazza3

                      My experience is that the Pho at both Vietnam and Vietnam palace is sub par. I do not like the broth, the size of the serving or the quality of the fresh herbs brought on the side. Many times they do not have the "sawgrass" or the pickled onions. Which is not to say that I do not like eating at either restaurant, I just do not have Pho at either place.

                      My personal favorite is Vietname Cafe in Telford, not to be confused with the outpost of Vietnam called Vietnam Cafe in West Philadelphia.

                      1. re: cwdonald

                        I like Vietnam Cafe, but unfortunately they seem to have eliminated tripe from their pho as of late. It's still good...

                    3. if around 69th Street, Ah Hong in upper darby is great.

                        1. re: Kater

                          N P only lists a beef pho on their menu, is that right? I thought it was more common with pork etc... but I am a pho newbie

                          1. re: AgentRed

                            Pho is always beef, although sometimes you can get it with shrimp and there is a chicken broth variation (pho ga). I've never seen pork, though there are similar soups with a pork broth base. NP has a huge separate menu of other soups, and they are all good of the ones I tried.

                        2. I love pho hoa... I didn't want to because it is so often described as the mcdonald's of pho restaurants, but their food is so good!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: LPhila

                            It's true, both the McDonald's comparison (they are a big national chain) and the fact that it is good (their Pho Ga--chicken soup--is my favorite).

                            Pho is fast food everywhere. The only thing that would really trigger my snob-goggles at a Pho place is if I found out they used a soup base instead of making it from scratch. But who knows, maybe some of the places I like use soup base instead of bones.

                            It is also pretty obvious that some places use fresher noodles than others, this is one thing that elevates Nam Phuong IMO.

                          2. Interested to get feedback on the Vietnamese restaurants on Adams Ave in the NE near the Blvd - there are 3 or 4 in the vicinity - have tried one which seemed pretty good - but I am no expert - name escapes me - just on the edge of the large mall in a seperate stand alone building.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: FriskLamb

                              I've eaten at Viet Kitchen several times, and just tried Pho Hoa yesterday. I've been pleased overall with Viet Kitchen, but I was surprised that the broth at Pho Hoa tasted far less exciting than it smelled. It was a little bland, to be honest. I liked that they had a kid's portion of pho for my daughter, but I don't think I'll go back.

                              1. re: FriskLamb

                                They're all pretty good. You may be thinking of Pho Hoa. It's next to the Hong Kong supermarket.

                              2. I've had Pho at most of the places listed, and I like Pho 75 slightly more than the others.

                                Pho Eden in Cherry Hill has surprisingly good Pho, though without the breadth of meat options you will find at Pho 75. There are a number of other Pho/Vietnamese places in the Cherry Hill area, including Pho Barclay (which in 3 trips has been consistenetly weak on both food and service). Those are the only two in CH I've tried.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: rbarr

                                  I tried Pho Eden in Cherry Hill recently, the broth was very weak and lacking much flavor
                                  by itself. After adding Srirachan sauce, it was much better. I'll return but Pho75 in Chinatown is still the best.

                                2. Has anyone tried the new-ish Pho place in the strip mall at Columbus Blvd and Washington Ave? (I could walk there even in this weather!)

                                  15 Replies
                                  1. re: Bigley9

                                    Has anyone tried the new Pho restaurant in the Northeast Pho Palace on Bustleton Ave.?
                                    It is in the shopping center on the corner of Bustleton Ave and County Line Road (in the same s.c. as Food Basics)

                                    1. re: Pinky

                                      Is it open yet? I have driven by it but didnt see that they had opened.

                                      1. re: cwdonald

                                        I also saw this place for the 1st time today on Bustleton (near Cottman). I think it's open, but i don't know the name. I will try to go during the upcoming week. I am not sure if it's the same place you are talking about. I also posted a question about this down thread.

                                      2. re: Pinky

                                        My wife and I tried it today. They serve an Americanized version of Vietnamese food. Admittedly we only order a few items, but we were disappointed.

                                        An order of summer rolls contained a lot of iceberg lettuce and very few herbs. The rice paper was OK, but far too much lettuce. My feeling is that the right amount of lettuce in this dish is none.

                                        Something called "Roman Salad" sounded as though it would be the nice dish of raw beef with a fish sauce dressing. It wasn't. Again, a lot of lettuce, some cooked beef and a pleasant sweet vinegarette, along with some pickled carrot and daikon.

                                        A Bahn Mi had nice bread, but a not very Vietnamese taste.

                                        If I didn't know how Vietnamese food can taste I might have found the food acceptable, but it was not what I was looking for.

                                        1. re: Pinky

                                          Forgot the name but six of us ate there and all agreed it's an Americanized version of real Pho. Got the impression if it's not a chain already that's where they're heading.

                                          1. re: george2

                                            Are you referring to the NE place or the Columbus Ave place?

                                        2. re: Bigley9

                                          I tried it-- not great, but in a snowstorm, it'll do. I prefer the places on Washington. Both my boyfriend and I found this place sort of lacking in flavor, but it was also right after it opened, so maybe they were still working out the kinks...

                                          1. re: PhillyHorn

                                            I have heard from a reliable source that Cafe Diem is outstanding. I am trying to get there asap.

                                            1. re: thehungrything

                                              I read about Cafe Diem over at egullet and while the consensus was that it was very good, the consensus also was that the service is terrible. If you do go please give us a write up about both the food and the service. My own experience with pho is limited to Nam Song (which I think is very good), Vietnam (too many years ago to really remember) and a place out in San Diego which was better than Nam Song, but, you know, a little far to travel for a bowl of heaven.

                                              1. re: Rondo

                                                Cafe Diem is definitely worth checking out. But know this: It is really small--like being in your grandmother's parlor. Go with maybe one other person. The service isn't that bad. It's just a very small family operation and just show some patience. And if you also like Bun Bo Hue, you will be in heaven.

                                              2. re: thehungrything

                                                Based on a reliable source I heard Cafe Diem (a few doors south of Bibou, same side of the street) serves the real thing. I was told they are open 11-5 six days a week but closed on Wednesdays.

                                                Tried to call them but they hung up on me. It turned out that they do not speak English. In fact the young lady's greeting when we showed up was "No English". Did I mind? Hell no. I was there to eat, not to converse in English with the staff.

                                                6 of us were there and we ordered various items from the bilingual menu.When the food came we buried our faces in the bowls. The broths were all very very good. The pieces of chicken in one order were judged to be from an "earth chicken" because of the flavor and texture - a high form of compliment. The pork hock in another was chewed and swallowed in seconds. When asked how he liked the noodle soup, the 4-year-old boy sitting across the table from me mumbled from one corner of his mouth, "no time to talk, I am eating..." He did not look up. Highly unusual. Both the iced tea and the iced coffee were excellent. You may say all 6 of us enjoyed our lunch very much.

                                                The place feels "authentic". As such, I did not expect the service to be up to par with what one gets from a fine western restaurant.

                                                This place replaces Pho Ha as my #1 place to go for Viet food.

                                                  1. re: barryg

                                                    Their menu offers limited selections. A good sign, ya?

                                                    Friend next to me had Bun Bo Hue; I had the beef pho. Someone else had a chicken something.

                                                    An important yardstick to me is whether a broth tastes fresh, flavorful and yet not "turbid" nor "tired", nor "thin". I like the broths at Cafe Diem. Cafe Diem and Pho Ha stand out among the 10 places I have evaluated as having broths good enough for the drive.

                                                    1. re: borntolovefood

                                                      Did they give you a choice of the meats that go in the soup... brisket tendon etc?

                                                      1. re: cwdonald

                                                        Actually, no.

                                                        In my pho, I had thinly sliced brisket, tendon, and halved beef meatballs, all quite tasty. The surprise was a slice of onion. It highlighted the broth. I totally forgot to add the basil, bean sprouts and jalapeno slices.

                                          2. I've asked this before, but does anyone know if the places on/near Washington Ave. use MSG? I'd love to try pho but can't have MSG (please spare the MSG debate - it gives me migraines plain and simple). Thanks!

                                            10 Replies
                                            1. re: lawgirl3278

                                              all those places put a heavy hand of MSG in their PHO. It's the norm I always get a headache after I eat Pho. Cafe Diem is a good alternative to Pho, they are known for their Bun Bo Hue. Which totally blows Pho out of the water. Service can be spotty but Cafe Diem is the real deal. Once you try the Bun Bo Hue, Pho will be an after thought.

                                              1. re: 808eater

                                                Cafe Diem's Bun Bo Hue doesn't have MSG in it? Are you sure?

                                                Yea I can't imagine Pho without MSG or some sort of "flavor enhancer;" it can be overused but I don't think that any Pho without it would be Pho that I would want to eat. I am pretty sure that Nam Phuong is on the low end of MSG use and Pho Hoa is on the high end, but that is just based on how I feel after eating a bowl.

                                                1. re: barryg

                                                  I am sure it does but not as heavy handed as other joints. Actually Pho without MSG is doable, I actually made Pho myself without it. Your right it's that feeling when your done it eating. It's not very nice when you have the after effects of too much MSG. I usually get a splitting headache. The only Pho place in the city is Pho 75 for me. Usually the one on adams ave in the northeast. They make a very good product. The best Pho I ever had in the US was in Honolulu, Hawaii , Pho To Chau, there was a line out the door to get in to eat there. Usually 45 minutes to an hour and boy was it worth it. Broth was clear, veggies were fresh, and cheap too. When I visit hawaii I am usually there for breakfast everyday.

                                                2. re: 808eater

                                                  bun bo hue is a totally different craving though, you can't put that and pho against each other. if this person hates lemongrass then they won't agree with you at all....

                                                3. re: lawgirl3278

                                                  If you have an in at Penn, these kids are serving up MSG-free Pho:


                                                  1. re: barryg

                                                    Thanks for your responses, they are much appreciated! Sadly, it looks like pho may not be in the cards for me, unless I make some friends at Penn!

                                                  2. re: lawgirl3278

                                                    Pho Hao (or is Hoa?) I am pretty sure uses MSG in there pho. My only proof is that I saw a giant drum in the corner the last time I ate there. I am speaking of the one on Addams ave in the NE.

                                                    I like Pho 75 the best.

                                                    There is another place on Busselton Ave that i just saw - can anyone enlighten me to the name?

                                                    1. re: LaurCar

                                                      There was a thread on this or the PA board a while ago searching for MSG-free Pho. I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist. MSG is part of good pho, but some places use more than others. In my experience/taste, out of the well known places on Wash Ave and in Chinatown, Pho 75 uses the most MSG. Pho Hoa is about in the middle.

                                                      1. re: barryg

                                                        Wow I just realized the thread I was referring to was this one! And I contradicted myself by putting Pho Hoa in the middle of MSG use this time, but the reason is that I've had Pho 75 since then recently (Chinatown location), and it really had a lot of MSG in it.

                                                    2. Look, do you want a great bowl of Pho, rich in star anise and cinnamon flavors? Hands down winner: Nam Phuong. Get the pho deluxe so that you can enjoy many different cuts of beef with your excllent dark broth. All the Vietnamese people go there. Yes, the service sucks hard......but get over it. Just wave your hand, they'll be glad to assist you. As far as Cafe Diem goes, I've always had good food there, but some rather strange experiences that turned me off -- like when I asked for some shrimp paste with my Bon Bo Hue and the older woman that worked there indicated that they didn't have any -- when I noticed a Vietnamese family spooning the sauce into their food I drew this to her attention, she snarled at me.........though I've also had some pleasant times there as well. Pho 75, of course, is reliable for a consistent and lighter broth. Pho Hoa at 6th and Washington I found to be inconsistent, often giving you something other than what you had ordered -- and many of the staff is Mexican, not Vietnamese -- not to be racist, but this doesn't often make for a pleasurable Vietnamese dining experience. Choo Choo Train at 9th and Race in Chinatown also makes a very good soup, as well as that Cali place at 10th and Race which (despite the pompous vibe) really delivers the goods.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. a lot of people say choo choo's in chinatown, but it aint all that. pho ha 6th and wash straight up.

                                                        1. coming from a viet -- hands down PHO 75 for a quick and good hot bowl of pho. to me, the one on washington ave is slightly better than the one off of adams ave in the NE.

                                                          Nam Phuong for any other type of vietnamese food.

                                                          And yes, bun bo hue is a HUGE difference from pho. to me, it's like comparing apples and oranges. two completely different flavors (depending on how much sihriacha (sp?) sauce you put in your pho.

                                                          1. Pho 75 on Washington gets my vote

                                                            1. Just had Pho Ha (6th and Washington) - this pho is awesome. Much much better than Pho Hoa, and probably the best I've had in town (though I haven't had Cafe Diem yet).

                                                              1. Outside of the city, in Willow Grove, there is a somewhat new place called Pho and Beyond. Excellent!! If you are in that area, please give it a try -- near WG mall, on Easton Road in the little strip shopping center where Weinrich's Bakery is located. BYOB.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                  If you are going to have Pho outside of Washington Ave, or Adams Ave, you have to consider Vietnam Cafe in Telford. For my mind some of the most flavorful Pho I have had in Philadelphia.

                                                                  I have been disappointed in the size and flavor of the Pho at Pho and Beyond. While it is better than Pho Tai Nam in East Norriton, I still find it wanting.

                                                                  1. re: cwdonald

                                                                    Agree about Pho and Beyond. I have heard very good things about Vietnam Cafe in Telford, but I have never been. Pho 75 is worth the trip often meet someone from Yardley who insisted on droving to Adams ave for lunch meetings.

                                                                  2. re: PattiCakes

                                                                    Pho and beyond is good, especially the broth. BUT they only give you a half filled bowl of pho, with NO tripe, and the prices are high. im my opinion its not the best best deff top 3.
                                                                    Choo Choo is still the best ;)

                                                                  3. in chinatown, pho cali is pretty decent.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Jbird35

                                                                      Pho Cal is alright, but I thought the other one. Pho Xe Lua Viet Thai is slightly better.

                                                                    2. Dont say anything until you have had Pho from Pho and Beyond in Willow grove

                                                                      1. Suddenly, I also wonder this question too. I usually have my Pho in Philly Chinatown, but chances are that they are not the very best.

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                          The South Philly places are much better than the Chinatown ones in my experience. Haven't been up to Adams Ave.

                                                                          1. re: barryg

                                                                            Hi Barryg,

                                                                            I am all ears. How far south are we talking about? Do you have one which you can recommend to go to? (with easy parking option). Thanks.

                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                              If you want easy parking, go to Pho Saigon on Columbus Blvd near Washington Ave. We go there a lot and like the pho.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                All the places listed above.... Pho Ha and Nam Phuong are my favorites. I haven't been to Pho Saigon and I trust Philly Ray's opinion, and I've heard other good things. All three have parking lots.

                                                                                1. re: barryg

                                                                                  Thanks Philly and Barryg. I will look them up and see which one is easiest to get to. I believe both of you helped me out before on the Cuban restaurant too. I went to Tierra Colombiana. Nice place.

                                                                                  1. re: barryg

                                                                                    and Pho 75 is in the same shopping center as Man Phuong - but parking is a bear there on the weekends. Always full and inconsiderate drivers block the narrow lanes. Weekdays should be better, otherwise I'd follow Barry and head down towards Columbus.

                                                                            2. Some discussion of making Pho at home was split over to the Home Cooking board at: http://www.chow.com/topics/871413

                                                                              Check it out!

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: The Chowhound Team

                                                                                Oops, it appears that I got 'regulated', for the second time.

                                                                                1. re: mookleknuck

                                                                                  If you try it let us know... Pho Hoa was fine for soup but not as good as many of the other nearby places. It was not so great for non-soup items.

                                                                                  1. re: barryg

                                                                                    I had the pho bo kho at Pho Ta. I thought it was very good. The broth seemed especially rich and there were plenty of nice chunks of steak. I'll go back to try some other soups. I'd put on par with Nam Phung.

                                                                                2. Pho Xe Lua Viet Thai !!!!!!!!!!!!! (Choo Choo) in chinatown

                                                                                  END OF STORY. THE BOMB.

                                                                                  -Meat cuts