Sipping the pho fantastic

Pho ga (chicken pho) at Via Café; photo by Lan-Chi Lam

Given the region’s rich Vietnamese community it’s logicial that there are hundreds (or is it thousands?) of places that serve the rice noodle soup called pho. Not surprisingly, there are a number of good places near Metro in or close to downtown L.A.

If you’re in search of cheap meals, Vietnamese pho (pronounced fah) should be on the top of your list of warming comfort foods perfect for this time of year. (Although in northern Vietnam where pho originated, it’s eaten even when the weather’s steamy, which is often.)

Rice noodles, flavorful broth, chicken, various cuts of beef, seafood, veggies, whatever, pho is a good value meal. Some of L.A.’s pho restaurants are mom-and-pop joints while others are fancier Asian fusion cafes. But they are all pretty similar when it comes to pho and there’s something reassuring about that.

Pho is simple food. It’s dependent upon good broth, usually with a roasted or charred onion and ginger undertone. Rice noodles give it body. It generally contains onion, scallion and cilantro, in addition to meat, seafood or chicken. Pho is always served with a side of bean sprouts, basil, lime and green chilies to pile into the steaming broth.

Pho doesn’t require any accompaniment but lately, sweet potato fritters or fries with garlic seem to be showing up as meal starters. Or you can opt for something more traditional, like the Vietnamese crepe called banh xeo, which is filled with fresh veggies and maybe a few bits of seafood, chicken or meat. Or you can start with a spring roll. (I like the one at Good Girl Dinette.) But the addition of those will cost you and partially neutralize the brilliance of pho, which is that it’s basic, interesting and cheap. It’s hangover food, even if your hangover it more closely related to traffic and the economy than it is to alcohol.

Green beans and chicken in garlic sauce at Via Café; photo by Lan-Chi Lam

In or near downtown there are three pho places that you might want to consider, in large part because they’re easy to reach on Metro so you can save money and frustraton by skipping the annoying drive.

They are Good Girl Dinette, 110 North Avenue 56, Los Angeles 90042, (323) 257-8980, two blocks from the Gold Line Highland Park Station; Via Café, 451 Gin Ling Way, Los Angeles 90012, Gold Line to Chinatown Station, a 10-minute walk from there; and Blossom, 426 S. Main St., Los Angeles 90013; (213) 623-1973, Red or Purple Line to Pershing Square Station, followed by a short four-block walk. All have good chicken and other pho, ranging in price from $6 to $9. And Via Café has the longest menu of the three, with a variety of enticing offerings.

Any other pho suggestions near Metro? If so, let us know. Share your thoughts by filling in the blanks here or commenting below.

2 replies

  1. As far as metropolitan LA goes, I prefer the venerable Pho 87 at 1019 N.Broadway at Cottage Home, a short walk north from the Chinatown Gold Line station. Admirably packed with pho slurpers at lunchtime!