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Pho / Vietnamese in Philly

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Hi - I'm coming down to Philly from NY for Thanksgiving and I believe Philly has a reasonably sized Vietnamese area. What are the best places for pho? (my gf and her family really like pho)

Also, are there any other vietnamese restaurants you would recommend? And what specific dishes do you like? (I'm very familiar with Vietnamese food, so shoot away)

Thanks!

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  1. You are going to want to visit the Washington Ave are of Philadelphia. Here is a good thread to get you started. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/860905. Nam Phuong is probably going to be the restaurant most cited in general. We do have a Pho 75 branch here which is not bad. It may come down to whether you want just a quick bowl of Pho or a dining experience where you try other dishes as well.

    In Philadelphia's chinatown we have two stalwarts of Vietnamese cooking, Vietnam and Vietnam palace. While some of their dishes are good (bun are ok, stuffed grape leaves, salt encrusted squid etc) I really have not had good Pho at these places.

    BTW love your reviews on the NY board.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cwdonald

      hey cwdonald - thx for the response

      Pho: so I've been searching around and I see Nam Phuong, Pho Ha and Pho 75 that seem to be cited the most. I'm looking for the best quality pho, which one do you think serves the best pho? I'm looking for beef pho not chicken pho (my gf likes beef pho much better although i love pho ga)

      Non-Pho: i could conceivably come to eat once for pho and once for other food, so do you think that Nam Phuong is the best place for non-pho dishes, which ones do you like the best?

      btw thanks! glad you like my reviews. I'm going to be posting alot soon, but I'm working on changing the whole visual layout of my blog which is taking forever and is painfully tedious although it will look way better (you can see that the newer posts are in the new format and look way better)

    2. None of the following are amazing (I have yet to be amazed at any Viet food in Philly), but they're all solid (for the East Coast).
      Cafe Diem: very good bun bo hue; limited menu, very limited English
      Le Viet: ca kho to (catfish claypot); shrimp app, goi sua tom thit (summer delight salad - pork and shrimp and veggies)
      Pho Saigon: avocado sinh to, pho with tendon (bland, but tender)

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/686740

      9 Replies
      1. re: mookleknuck

        ok thanks for the recs

        i'm from newport beach in CA which is fairly close to little saigon which ive explored very heavily over the last 4-5 years (my mom thinks i'm obsessed with viet food bc i constantly eat it at home), so i'm always looking for a fix on the east coast which is hard

        i havent had ca kho to in a while, i could use some right now

        1. re: Lau

          My Vietnamese friend claims that Pho Ha is the best pho in town, but our tastes don't always align (she likes brisket in her pho and i prefer tripe and tendon, but we both need a great broth).

          It's too bad you can't just run around eating all up and down Washington Ave (and reporting back!). Your reports on Cantonese in Flushing have been great guides.

          1. re: mookleknuck

            who do you think has better broth? i care somewhat less about the toppings and more so about the broth

            i actually would do that, but her family's house is the suburbs so its not super close to Washington unfortunately. I actually do that all the time when i go back home to CA in Little Saigon (the viet food there is really good and i got my whole family into it now and just drag them along too now)

            Glad you like the posts, will be alot more coming out soon once im done updating my blog to the new format which is taking a while

            1. re: Lau

              Yeah, maybe the toppings were a poorly chosen example as to how my friend's tastes and mine don't align. I can't decide what her criteria are for a good broth. It's been a couple of months (because I am also in the suburbs and so completely understand why you can't run all up and down Wash.) since I've been to either places, but I think I liked Pho Ha's broth better, too. Too bad you can't get a bowl at each...? I'll probably grab a quick bowl for dinner tonight and report back later.

              Good job dragging people around. That's what I do when I come up to NY. Keep up the good work.

              1. re: mookleknuck

                ah sounds good, ill give them a try

                1. re: Lau

                  Went to both Pho Ha and Nam Phuong last night. Pho Ha was faster service but slower arriving food. Fine to bland broth. Nam Phuong messed up my order and gave me pho ga, so I can't accurately gauge who has better pho broth. Nam Phuong's broth had a lot of onion and green onions. If you see this review in time, I would vote for a visit to Nam Phuong because it has better tableside accompaniments and lots of other things on their menu for people who don't want pho..

                  Happy Thanksgving!

                  1. re: mookleknuck

                    we ended up going to Pho Ha, ill write a full review, but in short it was alright...i think im spoiled with the pho back in CA and it doesn't compare

                    that said its def better than what NY has to offer, so that was good

                    1. re: Lau

                      Yeah, i'm not even sure that Philly's best can compare with some of DC's suburbs, let alone TX and Cali. Glad to hear that it was relatively good. Look forward to your review!

                      1. re: mookleknuck

                        yah ive realized after trying vietnamese food outside of CA that the food i eat at home is just on a different level...that said its nice to eat it now and then since i can't go back to CA as much as i'd like

      2. Vietnamese isn't exactly my favorite cuisine, so take my suggestions with a grain of salt, but my favorite Vietnamese in the city is Le Viet, on 11th just north of Washington. They have a very good chopped clam appetizer dish there, served in a bowl made of puffed sesame cracker that you break pieces off of as you go to scoop up the clams. I like the pho at Pho Ha more than Pho 75. I've never had pho at Nam Phuong but I have eaten dinner there and I prefer Le Viet. They also do pho at Le Viet but I prefer Pho Ha.

        ETA: For your reference, the only Vietnamese places I've been to are Nam Phuong, Vietnam, Vietnam Palace, Le Viet, Pho Ha, Pho 75, Cafe Nhu Y (great banh mi but you're not after that).

        1 Reply
        1. I am not an expert on Vietnamese food (other than having enjoyed it at Vietnam Restaurant and pho at Pho Ha and Bahn Mi at any number of places) but I have had some very nice sit down meals at Mekong River, which only opened about 6 months ago, their salt and pepper preparations were very good and a clam dish whose name escapes me (kind of a mahogany colored sauce/glaze)

          1. Great recs that cover the bases above. I would skip the Chinatown options in favor of South Philly (around Washington Ave).

            Definitely don't miss Cafe Diem for Bun Bo Hue. I like Pho Ha and Nam Phuong best for pho. The latter has a huge soup menu besides pho too.

            You also might want to poke around Ba Le (same shopping center as Pho Ha) and the tofu place in the same shopping center as Nam Phuong -- I don't know what it's called but its right by the 11th St entrance. Both have a lot take out stuff and tofu place makes fresh tofu and soymilk on site. Ba le has pretty good banh mi too.

            10 Replies
            1. re: barryg

              ahh thanks, id actually like to pick up some soy bean milk etc

              i'd like to get bun bo hue although we'll see if i have time, my gf likes pho alot better than bun bo hue so we'll see if i can get 2 meals in

              1. re: Lau

                Cafe Diem has pho too, and Nam Phuong has bun bo hue. I never had the pho at Cafe Diem. If I was going to Nam Phuong I'd probably get the pho.

                As for other dishes at Nam Phuong, I really like their whole deep fried dish, the grilled shrimp on sugarcane, the clams in black bean sauce, and the stuffed grape leaves. Don't know the Vietnamese names, sorry.

                1. re: barryg

                  yah but it sounds like cafe diem specializes in bun bo hue and nam phuong is somewhat more of a pho specialist?

                  and thanks for the other dish recs at nam phuong

              2. re: barryg

                That unnamed tofu place (I also don't know the name but it has the word "tofu" in it) also makes a good tofu banh mi.

                  1. re: Lau

                    Looks like it. It's on the ground floor of that shopping center, in the space closest to 11th St., just south of Nam Phuong.

                    1. re: Buckethead

                      ok perfect thanks

                      i'm hoping they have this pandan flavored soy bean milk, i get it all the time when im back at home in CA

                1. re: barryg

                  Got some great pickles from Ba Le last night. Strong capsaicin burn. Also agree that Chinatown should be passed over.

                  1. so i tried nam phuong this weekend, ill write a full review about nam phuong and pho ha, but to cut to the chase i thought nam phuong was alot better than pho ha, which the more i think about it was pretty mediocre

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: Lau

                      Yeah, the more that I think about any of the pho places down on Washington Ave, the more mediocre they become. I've been eating pho out here in the northern suburbs at a couple of places and find them more enjoyable because they have better broths. Thus far, I've gone to for pho (in order of just doing a quick yelp search on Washington Ave): pho 75, nam phuong, pho ha, nam son, pho and cafe viet huong. I'm pretty sure I've gone to all of the pho places in Chinatown. There may have been others on Washington Ave that I can't currently remember, but really, I don't crave anyone's pho down there.

                      Glad you could check them out. Maybe a banh mi compare and eat would be more fruitful?

                      1. re: mookleknuck

                        Where in the burbs have you had good pho? I tried Pho and Beyond a few months ago and the pho was nothing special. And the summer rolls were bad too.

                        1. re: barryg

                          Agree that Pho and Beyond's summer rolls were mediocre. But their pho broth had both more flavor and salt than places where I've gone in the city. I've been going to Pho and More near the Assi because I've enjoyed their broth the most out of all places I've tried in the SE PA region. I haven't really felt that a mention of either was necessary on Chowhound as I don't consider either of them Chowworthy...but that's a whole other argument.

                              1. re: mookleknuck

                                ah ok thanks

                                unfortunately thats very far from where my GF's family lives, so the city is alot closer

                        2. re: mookleknuck

                          yah which pho places have u been to in the suburbs that you liked? and did you think they were better than the washington places on an absolute basis?

                          i like banh mi, but not as much as i like pho. what i miss most about the banh mi in CA is the bread, which the good places in CA churn out freshly all the time, so the quality of the bread is great

                          1. re: Lau

                            When I've needed a quick pho fix, I've gone to Pho and More mentioned above.

                            I don't give either Pho and Beyond or Pho and More an "absolute" better than any of the places in the city as a restaurant or for pho, as I still think it comes down to your preferences/social commitments/blahblahblah, but I'd pick either of these two places over almost all of the places I've had pho at in the city due to my enjoyment of their broth and their location. I wouldn't tell anyone to go out of their way, but if you're already in the area...

                            I feel the same way about banh mi, but sometimes you just want a quick sandwich and you're in the area... Fresh bread is a must!

                            1. re: mookleknuck

                              ahh ok actually, my GF's family lives in westchester so the places in the city are actually closer than these places

                              yah the bread is amazing actually, its funny bc they turnout pretty great quality french bread and its so cheap whereas where my house in CA is its literally probably 5-7x more expensive and not as good haha...although be be fair rent where i live is definitely multiples of what it is in little saigon

                              1. re: Lau

                                Not sure about in the states, but in Vietnam, the bread is made with a portion of rice flour, making it crisper and lighter than a traditional baguette.

                                1. re: Boognish

                                  yah it does taste a little different than a traditional baguette...any which way its really really good and so fresh

                                  1. re: Boognish

                                    I think the bread at Ba Le fits this description

                                    1. re: sadiefox

                                      I think it is close. O Sandwiches had the best version of this bread that I've had locally (IMHO)

                                      1. re: Bigley9

                                        Have you found a replacement for O Sandwiches yet?

                                        1. re: mookleknuck

                                          no, not really. I go to Ba Le or the little store on Christian between 8th and 9th, the bread is OK but not great, I think the Christian St sandwich is better but I haven't had many because their hours are weird.

                                  2. re: Lau

                                    Yah, coming from your gf's family's place, these two places would be really out of the way. It wouldn't make too much sense to go there when the city is so much easier for you to get to.

                                    I know Ba Le makes their bread fresh, but I don't find it amazing. If you try it and think it's worth mentioning here, please post back.

                                    1. re: mookleknuck

                                      yah ill let u know, i walked into ba le last time, but i didnt end up getting anything, was too full

                                      ive been taking them into the city to explore when im in philly, so ill probably start posting on the philly board every once in a while

                                      1. re: Lau

                                        Unfortunately, hearing that your gf's family is in West Chester, there is very few decent Vietnamese restaurants to go to that would compare to the ones in Philly.

                                        Le Saigon (Paoli) and Green Papaya (Exton) (both are the same owners) are the closest ones I think to WC, and they are mediocre at best. Haven't tried Bamboo (Malvern/Frazier) yet, but might be worth a shot if you don't want to go to Philly.

                                        1. re: paychecktoday

                                          yah it seems like going to philly is just the way to go