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Pho - Dish of the Month Minneapolis-St. Paul (Oct 2012)

Announcing the Dish of the Month for Minneapolis/St. Paul for October 2012: Pho

Link to Voting Thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/871238
Link to Nomination Thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/870914

The goal is to collectively try as many versions of pho as possible during the month of October! So let's start exploring and eating—report back with reviews and photos. Suggestions of places people ought to try are great, but the aim here is to be actively eating and reporting on current experiences.

Looking forward to seeing what people try! All types of pho are fair game!

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  1. Anyone try any pho yet? I'm looking forward to hearing reports!

    1. OK, I'll play. Pho seems to be surprisingly difficult to come by in downtown Mpls at lunch. I'd love to hear some good recommendations.

      I tried the pho at La Belle Crepe (on Nicollet Mall) last week. It was a to-go order. They prep the pho and give you a separate container of the cold garnishes as well as a tiny cup of hoisin mixed with sriracha (they also ask if you want hoisin and/or sriracha added before they close the container).

      I took the soup, walked a block to Angel Food Bakery to grab some bread to go with the soup (ended up with plain croissant), and headed another block up to my office. When I opened the soup, it was still almost too hot to eat.

      All in all, a good option especially considering the lack of numerous options downtown mentioned above. The broth wasn't spectacular, but it was fine. The beef was a paper-thin raw slice added just prior to closing the container and it surprisingly wasn't chewy from cooking in the broth for 10 minutes. Good, fresh shiitake mushrooms.

      In short, it isn't on the level of the oft-noted places around town, but if you're by Nicollet Mall and need a super-fast pho to go, this will satisfy your craving.

      1. I've been enjoying the pho at Pho 79 on Energy Park Drive in St. Paul. Very tasty!

        1. During the weekday lunchtime,I dine solo at Pho 79 energy park.They are the most generous of the garnish plate,and AZ's early career recommendation of a side order of their spicy chicken wings is true.If I go with family members,it's Quang all the way.True broth seasonings,and a fun lively atmosphere.Love their soup dumplings and the sea bass soup is worth a try too.I tried Ngon bistro's Pho this past summer and while it was great I'll take Quang over them anyday.You can also get down and dirty at Quangs slurping the broth/noodles,

          1. Well thanks to this thread, I tried my first ever Pho. Went with the ribeye version at Ngon and it was delicious. I had no idea what to do with the condiments, though, and would appreciate any instruction. And Ngon's side of the street is back open, for any of you who have been avoiding that part of town.

            I hope to stop by Pho 79 before the month is over, so I have some basis for comparison.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jaycooke

              Great to hear that you enjoyed your first-ever pho. I do pretty much the same as shikken with the condiments, but it's up to you. You can always get a small side-bowl, and experiment with the hoisin sauce, chili sauce, etc. with small amounts of broth before adding it to the whole thing.

              Looking forward to hearing what you think of Pho 79 (or other versions) that you try.

            2. What I do right away is throw 1/3 of the garnishes in right away, tearing the hopefully thai basil in 4ths into the broth.Dont throw the lime slices in.Ill squeeze some lime into the spooned broth every several spoonfuls if I feel like it. Add another 1/3 when you have eaten 1/3rd of your way through your pho.I dont utilize any of the bottled items on the table for my pho.Some may just use the broth as a warming agent for the solids rather than drinking it. One thing for sure is if you are ill or starting to get ill,go get some pho and it could literally stop an oncoming cold from escalating or will help you recover quickly.Im going to try to get to Quang today.

              4 Replies
              1. re: shikken

                Is the Pho 79 on Nicollet and 25th owned by the same people that run Pho 79 in Energy Park? The one on Nicollet still has, in my opinion, the best broth.

                I don't go to Quang any more. The place is so dirty that it's even starting to bother me.

                1. re: discus

                  I recently moved here from NY and have tried both Pho 79 and Quang. In my opinion neither are even up to fair quality. The food at Quang was greasy and in spite of asking for no cilantro or mint I got both at Pho 79. Is there anywhere in the area that has good Thai or Vietnamese food? I don't need to be in Minneapolis, anywhere in St. Paul would be just fine?

                  1. re: tapdance

                    tapdance, "along the lines" of Thai/Vietnamese, you might satisfy your urges at the Hmong Markets. The Como Ave Hmongtown Marketplace has my favorite pho in MSP at the Mr. Papaya's Kitchen stall. Photo below.

                    For those reading along, a secret place for great pho (and lab) in St. Paul is at Palace's Pizza. Here's a link to a photo of their pho, courtesy of my friend Bill: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bill_roe...

                    1. re: MSPD

                      Well if you and Bill like it, that's recommendation enough for me. I've got a few days off this week, so I'll head over to Palace one day for lunch and weigh in on their pho myself.

                      This out of date menu makes me laugh: http://www.viewmenu.com/palace-pizza-...

              2. I'll weigh in on the pho I've had in the past couple of weeks: at Pho 79 on Energy Park Drive, and at Quang on Nicollet.

                Pho 79 in SAP on Energy Park Drive is our go-to for pho, not just because I can crawl there from home on hands and knees in under five minutes when I'm feeling like cooking is the last thing I want to do. The broth is consistently good, although I will admit to the sometimes-considered-sin of adding a bit of this-or-that condiment to my bowl. The plate of sprouts/herbs is generally good, although it varies on generosity from time to time, and depending upon the market, the herbs can be a little lacking. No harm...I generally eat at Pho 79 once a week, so I realize these thing can vary as much as my own stock of herbs can vary. Just know that if basil is a prime source of pleasure in your pho eating experience, Pho 79 can be a little inconsistent. I make up for it with the greens-heavy spring rolls as a side order...very nice. What wins at Pho 79 for me is how wonderfully they cook the tendon for the pho. Perfectly silky and delicious. I generally go for the "Pho [0]" and then ask for extra tendon, and to my knowledge have never been charged extra. The tripe is also cooked well.

                As for Quang, I generally go because I have a craving for the sweet potato/ shrimp fritters. But I always have pho, too. The draw for me with Quang's pho is the broth...I realize I never add any condiments to the bowl. Very beefy, and yes, slightly greaser than most of my pho experiences, but not in a bad way at all...it hits on all levels for me. The noodles in the pho at Quang are for me, on the whole, better in that they have never been overcooked, which is a slight criticism of Pho 79, which is inconsistent on the noodles. Where Quang typically falls down for me is in the tendon and tripe - tendon not well-cooked and silky, and tripe even tougher than one normally finds. I really like tendon and tripe, so this isn't an unfamiliarity, just a note that some things need to be cooked longer and with greater attention; it sort of befuddles me that Quang's broth can be so wonderful, but the tendon so underwhelming, since it seems to me that long stewing of tendon adds body to the broth and why not just plop that long-stewed tendon into my bowl, rather than undercooked tendon. Still, the sliced beef in Quang's pho is phenomenal; last week I could have sworn I was eating prime steak, the flavor and texture was so good. The plate of sprouts and herbs was wonderful too...no punting on freshness or quality.

                As much as I like my usuals, I'm hoping to find another must-try pho on this thread before the month is out!

                1. Pho Ca Dao on University is another option that's come up on here before. Their menu consists of several pho options, plus egg rolls and beverages. Cash only, very limited atmosphere, very limited service, but really clean tasting broth with solid ingredients. Great value. Some yelp reviews bring up cleanliness, but that has never been an issue when I've been there. That side of University is torn up right now, though it's easy to get there from Arundel since they're right on the corner.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: thefunkytrout

                    Tried Pho Ca Do this week and I thought it was terrible, mostly because unlike Ngon, Quang, or Pho 79 (yes, I've been busy since my first Pho experience two weeks ago) the meat was fatty and stringy and gross. I ordered the version with flank and the raw steak, and both seemed to me to be inedible. I picked them all out and just had noodle soup, which was fine.

                    1. re: jaycooke

                      Huh, I wonder if you were actually given a different cut of meat? Was it really the thinly cut flank steak (put in the bowl raw)?

                      But awesome to hear you've been eating so much pho.

                      Hoping that everyone who has participated here weighs in on the vote for next month's dish of the month. Seems like this is definitely something that should continue in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

                      1. re: Dave MP

                        I don't know -- I ordered it with two cuts of meat -- "steak" and "flank" -- and one was put in nearly raw, and cooked quickly in the broth. It all seemed fatty and grisly to me. It's okay, there are lots of other delicious options, and I'm notoriously picky about perceived meat quality.

                  2. Had Pho at the Saigon or the new Pho Saigon today. I like the vibe at Saigon. The service is super efficient, fast, prices are good and the food is good. Is it extraordinary? No. Is the Pho as good as Pho 70 or Quang? In some ways better and others no. Like I said, I enjoy eating there.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: shanemio

                      Oh yes! Love Saigon, but think their pho is just ok. Not their shining star.

                      Still, in honor of the DOTM post, I ordered pho when I was there this week. Accidentally got my coworker's "steak and chicken" pho instead of the eye of round version I ordered. Did not care for the chicken in there. It was on the tough and flavorless side. The broth was flavorful enough, I guess, but I prefer Asian Deli's and Trieu Chau's more anise-y broths. I don't know. I am finding it kind of hard to describe pho in any other terms.

                      1. re: diesel

                        I always get the flank only at Saigon. While I agree the broth is less distinct...I like the fact that is is less oily also. I am not a huge fan of Asian Deli's - they have great add ins - like lettuce, which I enjoy, but I think it is not their best. Trieu Chau I enjoy very much.
                        I guess I just like Pho.

                        1. re: shanemio

                          Wow...lettuce sounds like a great add-in; never thought of that, nor seen it anywhere I've been. Just plain old iceberg, or more upscale?

                          1. re: cayjohan

                            Green leaf lettuce. Try it. If you have never been to Asian Deli, it is a great little joint with huge servings and reasonable prices.

                            1. re: shanemio

                              I love this place. Great Pho, too.

                    2. Pho Tau Bay still my go to place. Hearty broth and lots of tendon that almost melts in your mouth. Jasmin 26 is my second favorite. Broth that is refined and well balanced. I started the Pho quest last winter and now that is is colder the quest begins anew.