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Off-the-beaten-path pho and bun bo hue restaurants

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First of all, let me preface this by saying that I really only like Southern Pho, so I prefer recommendations for Southern pho, although people are more than welcome to post Northern pho suggestions for the benefit of others reading this thread at a later date.

Anyway, I've heard all of the standard recommendations. Pho Y, Pho Kim Long, Pho 54, Pho Tau Bay. None of these are really hitting the spot for me. I mean they're above average, no doubt about it, but I feel like in a place like San Jose with such a massive Vietnamese community, I should be able to find something that absolutely blows me away. The fact that everyone and their mother recommends the above places suggests to me that there's got to be something better (irony?), because in my experiences, all the places that I've been absolutely floored by in the past have been places that are relatively secret and you really have to be "in the know" to find them. Especially with Vietnamese places, some of the best places are those that a lot of people would be hesitant to even set foot into.

Just yesterday someone recommended Pho Bang on Tully to me, and it was the second time I heard that one. So that's next on my list, but I'd like to hear from some serious foodies, and see if anyone has ventured off the beaten path and found some legendary pho in the bay area.

As the title suggests, I'm also interested in Bun Bo Hue. The only place I've had the opportunity to try so far is Bun Bo Hue An Nam. It was quite good, but as before, looking for something that knocks my socks off, and BBHAN was only just "very good".

Also, I'm not limiting myself strictly to San Jose. I actually live quite a ways from there, so I'm open to anywhere in the Bay Area. I just think I'll have the highest chance of finding what I'm looking for in SJ / Milpitas, with SF being maybe a not-too-distant second.

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Pho Kim Long
2082 N Capitol Ave, San Jose, CA 95132

Pho Bang
1705 Tully Rd, San Jose, CA 95122

Pho Tau Bay
454 Keyes St, San Jose, CA 95112

Pho 54
2874 Alum Rock Ave, B San Jose, CA

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  1. For Bun Bo Hue, I think Ca Mau in San Jose and New Ca Mau in Santa Clara are better than Bun Bo Hue An Nam. An Nam is really good, but I prefer Ca Mau's Bun Bo Hue.

    For Pho, try Pho Ha Noi on Capitol Expressway in San Jose.

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    New Ca Mau Restaurant
    3775 Lafayette St, Santa Clara, CA 95054

    2 Replies
    1. re: kutz06

      I second the recommendation for bun bo hue at Ca Mau in San Jose - it's definitely better than the one at Bun Bo Hue An Nam.

      I also really like the pho at Pho Hanoi, but it is more Northern style so not sure if this is what you want.

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      Pho Hanoi
      1759 E Capitol Expy, San Jose, CA 95121

      1. re: hong_kong_foodie

        Third on Pho Hanoi. For southern, try Pho Minh in Cupertino.

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        Pho Hanoi
        1759 E Capitol Expy, San Jose, CA 95121

        Pho Minh
        10118 Bandley Dr, Cupertino, CA

    2. I posted an inquiry once about southern vs. northern pho and got the reply that pho is originally from the north, so their simpler style is the more authentic (and no recs for southern style). I, too, have found this style rather lacking - I prefer more of the aromatic spices. I rather like the pho at Nha Toi, but that's a northern restaurant for sure.

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      Nha Toi Restaurant
      460 E William St, San Jose, CA 95112

      1. There is a bun bo hue place near me, in Oakland, off 14th Ave. (that's AVENUE) between 580 and 80. Called Bun Mam Soc Trang, located at 1326 E. 18th Street. I always get banh mi there but folks I know say the soup is really good.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ltsering

          the bun bo hue is tasty here with the broth and the pork blood, etc. but no pig feet. they don't sell pho of any kind here. bahn mi has msg.

        2. You might want to try dac phuc on santa clara, they do a pretty good pho dac biet and pho ap chao. Their fried banana is very tasty as well.

          1. In case anyone else was interested in this, the winning Bun Bo Hue so far is Ngoc Mai in San Francisco. Absolutely amazing BBH, best I've had in a while.

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            Ngoc Mai Restaurant
            547 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109

            1 Reply
            1. re: divisortheory

              What makes the bun bo hue so good at Ngoc Mai?

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              Ngoc Mai Restaurant
              547 Hyde St, San Francisco, CA 94109