Good morning, soup

Pho City

Good for: affordable breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner
Notable dishes: rare steak, tendon and meatball pho, bún bò Hue

Pho City

6175 Stockton Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95824
Ste. 200

(916) 754-2143

May I suggest pho for breakfast or brunch? It’s a standard breakfast in Vietnam that won’t leave you with that logy feeling that results from ingesting hollandaise and bacon before noon. You can also skip the brunch lines and hangry arguments with your significant other.

Show up around 9 a.m. at Pho City, the new restaurant from the former owners of the beloved Pho Saigon on Stockton Boulevard, and you will wait at most a minute or two. Then you are briskly shown a four-top table or perhaps even a large circle table with a Lazy Susan, depending on the size of your party. The dining room will be plant-studded, packed with families of all types, and bright and clean—even the crocks of pickled jalapeños run clear. On both days of a recent weekend, the same group of jumpsuit-clad auto repairmen were squeezing limes into their massive bowls of pho, mingling with lavender-haired Gen Yers and oodles of toddlers and babies.

The pho is simple, the broth on the bland side when compared with the star anise-heavy broth at Pho Saigon, but the pho dac biet (special—ranges in price from $7.50-$11.50 depending on size) yields soft, garlicky meatballs, tendon with a perfect gummy consistency and thick-cut, rare steak with a satisfying chew. Order the steak raw on the side if that’s your thing (as many do). Also available upon request: Fresh, wide-cut noodles.

Beefy, spicy bún bò Hue ($7.50-$9.50) can sometimes exhibit a barnyard taste. That and the blood cubes were probably the reason I twice got the question, “Have you had bún bò Hue before?” But Pho City’s lemon-grass tart version is balanced and mild. The tender slices of beef shank are succulent and rimmed in fat, and the plate of accompanying fresh herbs and veggies (dia rau song) looked crisply perfect. Tricolor piles of red and green cabbage and shredded banana blossom soaked up the lip-smacking broth.

The kitchen killed it again with the dia rau song for the b&#;aacute;nh xèo ($7.95), a rice flour crepe served with perilla and fish mint (diep ca), an herb you almost never see in Sacramento. Too bad the crepe itself was mushy in the middle and overfilled with watery bean sprouts. B&#;aacute;nh xèo seems to be a very hard dish to perfect. I peeped around the dining room for a reminder of how to approach the b&#;aacute;nh xèo, and copied fellow diners in grabbing a lettuce leaf, stocking it with herbs and pickled veggies, and then adding a hefty piece of crepe. The lack of perfection in the crepe didn’t stop me from relishing these little hand rolls after a dunk in the funky-sweet fish sauce.

Similarly, a Chinese-style chicken wing platter ($8.75) piled with sautéed garlic and jalapeños benefited from that same hit of fish sauce to up the fatty-crunchy-sweet-sour profile. These were addictive and best shared with a larger party.

The pork-stuffed egg rolls topping the grilled pork and vermicelli salad dish (Bún thit nuong cha giò, $9) appeared to be identical to the hot ’n’ crispy delights I used to order at the old Pho Saigon. The grilled pork had an assertively smoky flavor that coated the fluffy noodles and shredded lettuce in this refreshing, perfect-for-summer dish.

Yes, Pho City is open for lunch and dinner in case you can’t wrap your mind around pho for breakfast—or maybe you grew up eating it for breakfast every day and want to hold onto your secret. At Pho City, the secret is already out.