Just pho fun

Ever think you’d want some tendon with your pho?

Ever think you’d want some tendon with your pho?

Photo By David Robert

I was in a lousy mood as we pulled into the Shopper’s Square parking lot. I was grumpy and hungry, and the weather was cold and wet. Everything anyone said seemed to annoy me, and, to be honest, I didn’t even feel like eating out. I would rather have been at home, watching a movie and eating something warm and comforting.

Viet Pho is a family-owned-and-operated Vietnamese restaurant that shares space with Port of Subs in Shopper’s Square’s miniature food court. Viet Pho sits directly across from the sandwich chain and even uses the same wobbly blue and grey tables. But Viet Pho, in stark contrast with Port of Subs, has the distinct appeal of a family-run restaurant—children running wild, friendly, enthusiastic service and unique food.

The specialty of the house is the traditional Vietnamese staple pho, beef noodle soup. Pho is often flavored with mint, lime, sprouts, chili sauce and a delicious plum sauce (I love the plum sauce so much I like to add it to every bite). The ingredients usually are served on the side, and the diner adds ingredients to suit his or her own taste. Many cuts of beef or chicken or seafood are available with the soup. I had steak, flank and tendon. The large bowl could sustain a family for weeks, so it’s a great deal at $5.50.

The soup was a little light on vegetables, and there weren’t as many seafood options as I’ve seen in other pho places. But the soup was, as our server said, “Very nice, warm soup on a cold day.”

Though the pho is the restaurant’s main attraction, Viet Pho has a well-rounded menu, with a variety of dishes. The restaurant also has daily specials, and you can order take-out. In addition to the pho, I had spicy shrimp over rice ($4.25), a tasty mix of shrimp and vegetables over rice. Though the vegetables were overcooked, and the chili sauce tended to drown out other flavors, it was still a nice complement to my soup. With the pho and the spicy shrimp and my liberal sampling of Danielle’s food, I ate way more than enough.

Danielle had ordered tofu and vegetables over vermicelli ($5.25) but was served tofu and vegetables over rice. This was the sole service mishap in our dining experience. Danielle decided that the vermicelli-rice mix-up wasn’t important enough to quibble over. She also had Vegetarian Spring Rolls ($1.75): mint, tofu, vermicelli, and lettuce wrapped in thin rice paper and served with an excellent peanut sauce.

As we were leaving, our server offered us a pate chaud, a small pastry filled with minced beef and onions. We gladly accepted and vegetarian Danielle, thinking it was some kind of dessert, took a huge bite. When she realized what it was, she recoiled in horror, screaming, “I accidentally ate beef and now I think I’m psychologically sick!”

She meant that her mind was convincing her that she was sick, but I had to say to myself, as I ate the rest of the pate chaud, yes, you must be psychologically sick to be that disgusted by this tasty little treat.

As I was laughing, it suddenly occurred to me: Hey, wait a minute. I’m in a great mood! Not a surprise, really, since the best meals—healthy, satisfying meals distinguished by fresh ingredients and friendly service—always leave me in a better mood than before I started.