Pho lovers all have their own idiosyncrasies - ours is steamed bean sprouts. We also like to measure out small little dollops of hoisin sauce and Sriracha (for dipping our meats) onto the little plates these places supply. So here is the list of the pho places we have tried so far. And before we begin, remember with pho it is all about the beef. Chicken pho or pho ga is an after thought, a supposed crowd pleaser and certainly not the real deal.
Pho 88 in Beltsville is located in a strip mall just past the Ikea. I had my first bowl of pho here and so I am little partial to the soup here. Some folks prefer the pho place down the street (more on that in a minute) because apparently it is cleaner. But I have never found this place lacking in hygiene. The formica tables and the plastic hanging plants don't do much for the decor, but the soup here is hard to beat. The soup is spicy, unctuous and has that deep beefy flavor which comes from hours of cooking. The garden rolls are okay but the peanut sauce that comes with it - now, I could slurp that.
Pho Vn One, is the cleaner, prettier place further north along Route 1, in Beltsville. The deep red walls and upholstered booths elevate it to a beyond-the-hole-in-the-wall status. The soup here is lighter andmilder cousin to the one down south. This is a good place to take friends who have never tried Pho before. .
Pho Real at the intersection of Briggs Chaney Road and Old Columbia Pike is the least patronised (by us) of the lot. We have slurped pho here once and on that occassion the soup was a little insipid. We should probably go back and check them out some more. But this place is squeaky clean and has a strange McDonald's like vibe.
Pho An in the White Oak Center in Silver Spring is our current favorite. Again not much of a looker and the service is not the most friendly (being regulars we sometimes do get half a smile tossed at us by the wait staff ). Apart from pho they also offer a noodle salad with the grilled meat of your choice. The Boy likes the chicken pho (which unlike other places is available in white meat, dark meat and a combination versions) while I am partial to the grilled pork which is served with thin rice noodles (like a salad) or with a side of rice. The garden rolls here are particularly pretty.