Thursday, May 23, 2024 May 23, 2024
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The Dallas Pho Explosion

The who, what, and where behind the Vietnamese soup surge.
photography by Kevin Marple, styling by Angela Yeung

Though pho (pronounced fuh) is far from new to North Texas, the recent surge of openings has reintroduced the signature soup of Vietnam to the mainstream. For newbies, let us explain the allure. It’s a savory broth (generally beef, chicken, or pork) seasoned with coriander, basil, star anise, and green onion; ladled over flat rice noodles and paper-thin tenderloin, brisket, chicken, or pork; and garnished with fresh bean sprouts, herbs, lime quarters, and varying quantities of hot chili paste. It might not sound much different than any other soup, but it tastes like magic.  

In years past, die-hards have found their fix in Richardson and Carrollton, where pockets of immigrant communities beget restaurants that do it right. Now, thanks to the opening of storefronts downtown, on Lovers Lane, and throughout Uptown, it’s much easier to satisfy those cravings.

New & Notable

Pho Is for Lovers
Don’t let the unfortunate name steer you away from this cheerful joint. The comely counter help makes sure no one feels like a stranger, and, more important, the multigenerational kitchen means every recipe remains authentic.

Pho Colonial

The new downtown location suffers from spotty service but turns out great dishes. Try the sleepier outpost in North Dallas for perfect broths and banh mi to die for.

One of the best-kept secrets in Uptown, Lumi has become a staff favorite. Credit the owner’s family recipe. But be warned: it serves the soup only until just after lunch.

Old Reliables

Pho Bac
Look past the semiabandoned strip mall location and you’ll find a hidden jewel. Big plus: the squeeze bottles on the tables are filled with quality hoisin sauce (aka Vietnamese hangover helper), not the cheap stuff you’ll find in lesser joints. 153 N. Plano Rd., Richardson. 972-231-9205.

Pho Pasteur 2
There’s a reason the Vietnamese clientele outnumbers Anglos here. The broths are reliable, reasonably priced, and ready when you are. 1927 E. Belt Line Rd., Ste. 120,
Carrollton. 972-418-8972.

Vietnam Restaurant
Our favorite waiter at our favorite Korean joint pointed us to this simply named spot. Yes, the place is odd, but ignore the detritus in the front room, settle in near the bar, and do what you came to do: eat
some soup already.

A Pho Primer

Pho can arrive at your table with ingredients as otherworldly as tripe and tendons, so be clear about what you are ordering. Though tendon is delicious, having one float up from the depths of your bowl when you’re not expecting it can feel like something out of a Jules Verne novel.

Pho connoisseurs will tell you that salty pho is lazy pho. Instead, tune your taste buds to pick up subtle flavors of star anise and basil.
Vegetarians take note: Vietnamese pho broth contains fish sauce. Sometimes—but not always—Thai pho broth does not. When in doubt, ask.

In Vietnamese culture, pho is traditionally served only for breakfast or lunch. Don’t expect a restaurant’s best effort later in the day. Many places stop serving at 3 pm, which means anything ordered close to or after that time runs the risk of containing the dregs of the pot.