Sometimes you’re looking for a date-night spot that requires a fancy outfit. Sometimes you need a place with a not-impossible parking situation. And sometimes, you just want a fun spot that serves good food. Next time that’s the case, consider Pho Bac Sup Shop in the International District. It’s a cool, casual place to eat pho and Vietnamese bar snacks, and it definitely belongs in your rotation. (It happens to have easy parking, too.)
You’re here first and foremost for pho, and you won’t be disappointed. We like the brisket and meatball bowls a lot, but our favorites are the massive short rib bowl and the special off-menu pho with an entire half-chicken that’s been slow-poached in broth. (Your server will tell you whether this is available, and if it is, you need it.) This chicken version is the kind of pho we’d find a way to shrink ourselves for, if it meant we could dive into the bowl and hang out on a drumstick - where’s Rick Moranis when you need him? There are also delicious small plates, like pork and prawn sausage sliders, french fries with cilantro mayo, and an addicting pub mix made from smashed fortune cookies and spicy sesame peanuts. The only frustrating thing about the food here is that they always seem to run out of the homemade cream puffs by dinnertime. We want those cream puffs.
Atmosphere-wise, this is a low-key place to come with friends and have a very good time. There’s a wine shop right there in the same building as the restaurant, there are televisions above the bar playing an endless loop of music videos, there’s a big neon sign announcing that you’re in the “Phocific Northwest,” and there’s even a photo booth in the back corner by the bar. Service here can be a little slow, so hop in for a few minutes to pass the time - even if it’s just to get some shots of you and your car keys celebrating how easy it was to find a spot.
The crowd is casual, ranging from big groups of friends to parents with screaming children, and it’s unlikely you’ll have to wait for a table. Which is a good thing, because you’re not going to want to wait any longer than necessary to take your seat, relax, and eat some quality pho.
A spicy pub mix with peanuts, chili oil, black sesame, and crushed up fortune cookies. It’s the best thing you never knew you wanted with a beer.
The fresh rolls here, rolled up tightly with big prawns, herbs, and vermicelli, are way better than average. Get at least one order for the table.
Two crispy rolls with a pork and prawn mixture inside, served with fish sauce for dipping. Get these.
If you only get one appetizer, it should be these pork and prawn sausage sliders. There are two per order, served on hearty little rolls and topped with pickled carrot, basil, fried shallots, and a tasty herb sauce. We’d get party packs of these things for tailgating if we could.
Perfectly crisp diner-style french fries with a creamy cilantro mayo dip. These may sound boring, but they’re absolutely worth your time.
The brisket pho is the best of the basic beef options (fatty brisket, tendon, steak, tripe, meatballs), and there’s a lot to like about it - maybe most of all the flavorful broth.
Also a great choice. The meatballs themselves have a good texture that holds together in the broth.
Wow. This is a massive bowl of pho (note that it only comes in a large) containing some also-massive short ribs. The meat is tender and delicious - you may need to pick up the bones and and gnaw at them a little to fully appreciate it. Carpe diem.
If they have the special slow-cooked chicken pho available, you’re getting it - it’s the best soup in the house. It contains an entire half-chicken that’s been poached in broth, and it’s topped with crispy shallots. The chicken meat is super flavorful and moist, and you can add seasoning with the bowl of salt and pepper and the lime that come on the side. This is pretty much perfect.