There’s always a gateway drug. You don’t just start with the bath salts. You ease into them.
For many in New York City these days, the gateway to pho was ramen. Once you’ve had a few hundred bowls from Momofuku or Ippudo, you’re ready to move on to the more advanced stuff. And in many ways, pho is the more advanced cousin of that well known Japanese noodle soup. We say pho is more advanced, because a good pho is so much more complex than ramen. The broth must be flavorful and rich, but also light. And that’s not easy to do.
As a matter of fact, many of the most seasoned pho enthusiasts among us will quickly point out that NYC has a severe deficiency when it comes to truly great options. That said, when a craving hits, you can’t exactly fly out to California. So here’s where to find the best of the best in NYC.
Note: A big part of a true pho experience is knowing what cuts of meat you like in your soup. Trial and error is really the only way to go, but for some guidance, check out our First Timer’s Guide to Vietnamese Restaurants.
Pho Grand is another well known and well liked spot for pho and phor good reason – they make a solid bowl of soup. The noodles here are perfectly cooked and the star of the show, but the broth is nice and satisfying too.
Things to know about Saigon Shack: The sliced beef pho is delicious, it is cash only, and you’ll pretty much have to get there exactly at 5pm to have a shot at getting a table. The place is small, and it’s no secret. At least among those who know what they’re doing.
Sao Mai is our move for when we need pho delivered to us in the office, which is pretty much always. A seated experience in this East Village restaurant is always satisfying too, and the rest of the menu beyond pho is worth some mouth time – especially the sườn nướng (grilled pork chop over rice).
We’re constantly getting asked about where to eat in the Financial District, and A La Saigon is a frequent answer. Lunch is a good move here, and it’s a solid spot for a cheap dinner as well.
Little Mo only serves their soup on the weekend for brunch, but it’s some of the best you can find in this town, even if you have to go to Bushwick on a Saturday to get it. The restaurant shares a space with a coffee shop, so you can also get an espresso to go with your morning pho.
A Vietnamese friend put us on to Thanh Da in Dyker Heights a few weeks ago, and the pho here is very solid, though maybe not worth making a trip for if you live far away. The bun bo hue? That’s another story entirely. Get on the train.