A good bowl of pho may be the most satisfying value play of all ethnic foods. You'll never pay more than $10 or so for one, and most places charge you closer to $5. But despite the low cost, good pho is satiating in every way that food can be. A big, hot bowl of savory broth will warm your insides and soothe your soul, while a hefty portion of noodles and beef will stave off hunger for hours and hours.
Here are five of Dallas' best bowls of pho. Go slurp them.
Pho Pasteur (pictured above) A large bowl of pho from this Richardson Vietnamese restaurant is plenty for all but the most ravenous of chopstick wielders. The "super" bowl, on the other hand, is big enough for bathing kittens. The massive vessel of warm clear broth will clear out your mind one sip at a time. It's restorative eating of the highest order.
Lemongrass The lunch deal at Lemongrass in Deep Ellum offers so much more than a bowl of soup. You might think that $10.95 is a ridiculous price, but this isn't your standard bowl of pho at all. The meal starts with a small plate of chicken salad and ends with a peeled and sectioned orange. The whole thing is served on white linen table cloths, with service that matches.
The pho itself is loaded with cinnamon and star anise, which gives the soup an almost sweet characteristic. But it lacks the buzzy sodium of the pho restaurants that dominate the suburbs. This soup is made with care.
Dalat Dalat serves pho from another planet. The broth is shifty and the flavors can vary from visit to visit, but there's a condiment bar that will let you doctor up your soup in a million directions. There's another kind of bar that offers drinks like no other pho restaurant in Dallas. Try salted, dried plums as a chaser for a tequila shot before you order your dinner. The flavors, like this restaurant, are something you're either love, or have trouble with.
Of course if it's after midnight and you're craving pho, Dalat is the only place to go. The East Dallas restaurant stays open till 2 a.m. for hangover prevention.
Rice and Wheat This Maple Avenue restaurant is a newcomer, but their soup should be on every pho lover's rotation. It's flavored quietly with spices so it doesn't taste like a cookie, and sodium is used with welcomed restraint.
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Hop Cafe This Haltom City Vietnamese restaurant practices minimalism in every regard and the facade of Hop Cafe is the perfect indicator for everything you should expect when you walk inside. The walls are sparsely decorated, and the cooking is simple too. Little time is wasted on unnecessary flourish.
But when you're sipping on a bowl of pho next to a table of Vietnamese men smoking cigarettes while they banter the afternoon away, you get the distinct notion that you're having an experience many diners overlook. Hop's atmosphere makes you feel like you've stumbled on some hidden secret. And the food is good enough to pull you in for a repeat visit.