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Best Pho in SF?

Looking for great pho in SF. Suggestions, please!

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  1. Yummy Yummy on irving & clement. their pho is msg free.

    5 Replies
    1. re: shanghaikid

      Correct me if I am wrong, but there is no Irving and Clement intersection...
      Is there one shop on Irving, and another on Clement?

      1. re: Tripeler

        1015 Irving St, San Francisco between 11th and 12th.

        1. re: Tripeler

          yes, they have 2 stores, one at 914 clement, original one at 1015 irving.
          heartell they have great banh mi too.

          1. re: shanghaikid

            Is the second restaurant the same name or disguised as Y & Y Vietnamese Cuisine?
            914 Clement St
            (between 11th Ave & 10th Ave)

            1. re: wolfe

              looks like it's listed as Y & Y Vietnamese at 914 clement st.

      2. I think the Pho at Sunflower on Valencia Street is quite good, but I haven't done a comprehensive tasting of Pho in the City. Also on Valencia St. is the newly opened Mau -- I had their wonton soup there and thought it was excellent. So I would have strong expectations for their pho.

        6 Replies
        1. re: SFDude

          Mau's Pho was just OK. Not to be that guy but also the service was absurdly awful.

          1. re: SFDude

            to be honest, i was expecting mau's pho to be watered down and disappointing, but it was a clean, sweet, tasty rendition. the noodles were stuck together in a huge gummy clump, but the broth was clear and had a nice flavor and the homemade sriracha was vibrant and had a satisfying kick. going to agree with hungree that service was very poor.

            1. re: possumspice

              I had good service, though it really isn't that difficult to deliver a bowl of soup and a drink to a person at lunch. Hopefully your bad experience was just a new restaurant thing; I think the menu at Mau looks interesting and want try more stuff.

            2. re: SFDude

              Mau is reportedly more or less a second branch of Tín.

              1. re: SFDude

                Went back to Mau again for lunch today and I spotted Danny Bowien, if that means anything. Had another bowl of pho with tendon and I have to say...I am hard-pressed to think of another bowl of pho in the city that I like better. I do enjoy Turtle Tower in the Tenderloin, but that's a very different style.

                Had the pho at Yummy Yummy once a while ago, but I found it to be quite bland the one time I tried it. Could have been an off day. I went to the branch on Irving. (Another time I went there for dinner and really enjoyed the entrees, so I believe the quality there is probably pretty high overall). My usual spot is Pho Tan Hoa, but I like Mau's bowl better and it's a lot closer to my house.

                My comment on the service, having been there a second time, is that it's very friendly, but pretty disorganized. Hopefully they're just working out the kinks. It was significantly emptier than the first time I was there, possibly because Curry Up Now just opened up two doors down.

                1. re: possumspice

                  Having been inspired by this chain, I went to Mau for lunch today and very much liked the Pho. The broth is nice and rich, maybe not as complex as some, but very satisfying. The beef was relatively tender and had real flavor (which is often lacking in Pho). The service was a bit casually gruff but very efficient.

              2. Yummy Yummy gets my vote for Favorite Pho. Their broth is light and flavorful without the msg. They are generous with their noodles, meats and garnishes. We've never strayed from our top picks: the pho tai (just the beef, no balls or tendon), five-spice chicken (tasty and crispy - served on the side on a plate with a steak knife) or the chicken curry (hot and spicy, with potatos and nice clean shredded chicken pieces).

                Service is always fast and friendly and the owners are so so nice - even if you have to wait, you will be greeted like a long lost family friend.

                We recently tried Pho Ha Tien II on Ocean Avenue (1900 Ocean Ave, San Francisco, CA 94127), but they were not nearly as tasty as Yummy Yummy.

                1. Turtle Towers in the Loin? I've heard it is good

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: vealcheek

                    Turtle Tower serves Northern style pho: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/301610

                    They also offer fresh noodles.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      FYI, from their FB Page:
                      Turtle Tower at 631 Larkin Street will close its door permanently on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 7:30 pm as we prepare to transition to our new location at 645 Larkin Street, which is expected to open April 2013.

                  2. Pho Tan Hoa on Jones and Eddy. Pho Clement II.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: PulledPork

                      Pho Clement II has been gone some time now. Now called "Good Noodle Restaurant". I believe after their legal problems they changed the name, but I think I've heard the staff is the same. If that is true, than I second them cause they were pretty great.

                      1. re: kairo

                        tried "good noodle restaurant's" pho tai gan, generous portion of noodles, fast service, fresh toppings okay, broth heavily flavored with 5 spice.

                        only drawback is the msg aftertaste. good pho overall.

                      2. re: PulledPork

                        pho tan hoa is the best in the city! i have been going here for more than ten years, and its the same employees, really clean and the best tasting pho in sf

                      3. In the Tenderloin, I really like Turtle Tower—their pho ga is very simple, but I really like the fresh noodles and the homemade taste.

                        This past weekend, I tried the pho at Kim Son in the Outer Richmond, and thought it was quite good. Broth was light tasting, serving was generous for the price.

                        In the Sunset, I like Phohuynh Hiep, which is on 20th Ave and Irving. I prefer the dining room, service and food here over PPQ, which is across the street, though PPQ is not bad either.

                        1. Based on the flavor of the broth and quality & quantity of the beef, my current favorite for southern style pho bo in SF is Quan Ngon on Noriega.

                          For northern style pho ga it's Turtle Tower in the Tenderloin.

                          For chicken curry pho it's PPQ on Irving at 19th. I also prefer all their pho's over the nearby Yummy Yummy, which lacks umami and authenticity, IMO.

                          Still looking for the best Bun Bo Hue in the City. Any suggestions?

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: Civil Bear

                            i have not had any good bun bo hue in the city. tried mangosteen, thanh tam ii, ngoc mai, and bodega bistro. none worth revisiting. i usually go to pho ao sen in the east bay, but would love to hear if people know of better/closer bun bo hue.

                            to clarify my earlier comment. i don't know if i would call mau the best bowl of pho in the city, but it was much better than i expected. the tendon was some of the best i've had...meltingly tender and nice thick slices, not a bunch of little odds and ends that you have to hunt for.

                            1. re: possumspice

                              Tu Tai in San Leandro specializes in bun bo hue. I'm no connoisseur so I can't say if it's worth a trip.

                            2. re: Civil Bear

                              Er...I believe Quan Ngon's bowls are all northern style (only lime and maybe bean sprouts on the garnish plate, much less star anise/cinnamon in the beef broth). Southern style would be a place like Ha Nam Ninh (surprised nobody's recommended it yet) with a spiced broth+basil/cilantro/culantro included on the garnish plate.

                              1. re: bigwheel042

                                Ha Nam Ninh is still on my list to try. Seems to be the only place in SF to serve culantro/sawtooth herb regularly.

                                Also surprised no one has mentioned pho sur demande at Bodega Bistro as a contender.

                                1. re: bigwheel042

                                  Love Ha Nam Ninh. Minimum of msg, correct garnishes, raw beef on the side upon request, tasty cooked beef bits, homemade hot sauce.

                                  Seems to be getting more popular though, which worries me as they really struggle to expedite bowls. Which is partly why I love it so much--they do it right (precook noodles in hot water right before hand so they don't make the broth cold or cloudy and pour really hot stock over right before serving) one bowl at a time which takes forever.

                              2. I'm a Turtle Tower partisan. But recently enjoyed Pho 2000 right next door to the original TT location.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  I recently hit up Pho 2000 as well, but found the pho bo broth a bit to far on the sweet side. With so many other options I doubt I'll be back.

                                  1. re: Civil Bear

                                    Yes, you're right Pho 2000 is on the sweet side. This was one of the few times that I added an extra squeeze of lime juice to bring the broth into balance. What I especially liked here (and Turtle Tower too) was having the option of fresh noodles.

                                    What other pho places offer fresh noodles?

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Da Noodle in SJ.

                                      iirc, +$0.50.

                                      They have an oxtail pho that comes standard with the fresh. I liked it overall, but skimpy on the oxtail. I thought some MSG in the broth.

                                      1. re: drewskiSF

                                        Thanks, but I was asking on behalf of the pho-deprived in San Francisco. :) Lots of options in San Jose, such as oxtail and filet mignon pho with fresh noodles at Pho Ba Dau Cong Ly.

                                        Here's the website for Da Noodle, new is it?

                                        Oxtails are becoming so expensive, I think skimpy is the order of the day.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong


                                          ya. Da Noodle is pretty new.

                                          the location is formerly the short lived Lan's Noodle House and before that Lang Chay, the vegan Vietnamese place with another location on Story (the Tully location is also closed)

                                2. Me and my friends prefer PPQ on 19th & Irving. We've been going there for years and have never been disappointed.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: ChowDownSF

                                    What about PPQ's version makes it preferable?

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                                      Wide selection of Pho, affordable, as well as they bring you the meat on top and you get to finish cooking it in your broth. Also, mainly because my vietnamese friends have been bringing me here for so long and defending it as the best Pho in the city.

                                  2. went to MAU last night, definitely some of the best beef pho (pho bo) i've had in SF (while turtle tower's pho ga is incredible, their beef pho is severely lacking).

                                    very flavorful broth; though i think the biggest thing for me was the niman ranch beef, which although not my preferred beef, is still far more flavorful and less gristley than the factory farmed beef used by most dives.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: vulber

                                      " less gristley"

                                      Though I don't expect everyone to like gristle, I feel I need to point out that gristle and a variety of forms of connective tissue are an intentional FEATURE of a well-crafted bowl of pho bo. Not everything is namby-pamby soft. Some parts such as the long leg muscle tendons are cooked well-done to have a softer gelatinous texture, others not so much to have a crackley crunch to the bite, and some kinds of fascia have a rubbery chewiness. If you don't like the parts with gristle, you can just tell your server to leave them out and order pho tai.

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        sorry, what i really meant is just tough, low-quality meat - you are indeed correct.

                                    2. Not in the City, but on the few occasions when I want pho over here, I go to a little place in downtown Berkeley, Saigon Express. They are under new ownership, but the old owner still works there and they seem to have the same rich beef broth. I usually order extra noodles with which to slurp up the last of the broth. Their iced coffee is pre-made though.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                        good to know - i go there a lot when i forget my lunch for the decent $3 bahn mis, but never have tried anything else there

                                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                          Agree, the Bun Bo Hue was surprisingly good the last time I was there.

                                          1. re: chocolatetartguy

                                            hmm. i've only been once and tried a grilled pork & combo Banh Mi and neither impressed.

                                            bad filling to bread ratio. limp, over-pickled daikon & carrots. grilled pork was pretty dry.

                                            based on your reco, might return to try the pho.

                                          2. As a point of reference, there's always "MSG" in any pho broth without exception (in the meaningful sense, of sodium and l-glutamate ions, and in serious quantities, from natural sources); the question there is whether deliberate cheap pure MSG was substituted for real flavor ingredients. With a classy broth as cited below, there is no incentive at all to prop it up with flavorless MSG.

                                            (Incidentally the classic pho spices seem to have some umami effect in themselves -- I learned that when experimenting with homemade pho broths.)

                                            But the key to a classy pho (as I was sharply reminded, sampling a new restaurant recently, which I can't recommend as yet, for this reason) is the broth. If you know meat broths, especially if you make them at home, a small taste will instantly reveal whether substantial natural meat and bone were used, or not. Often, not!