Address: 2808 Milam St, Suite D, Houston, TX (Midtown)
Category: Vietnamese, Pho
Houston has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in United States, so it is not surprising that Vietnamese restaurants are as ubiquitous as Tex-Mex and BBQ here in Space City. Many of these restaurants specialize in pho -- broth-based noodle soup, usually beef though there are also chicken and seafood versions. Pho broth is made by simmering beef parts and aromatic spices, and then served with thin rice noodles and slices of different types of beef. You get to select what type of beef to be put in your soup, such as eye round, flank, tendon, brisket, meat balls and even omasum tripe. (I love having this type of tripe in my pho -- it provides an interesting crunchy texture and doesn't taste "organ-y" like, say, liver.)
When you order pho at a restaurant, you usually get a plate consisting of bean sprouts, herbs (cilantro and basil), sliced jalapenos and lime slices, to season your soup as you see fit. Also, there should be different types of condiments -- hot sauces, fish sauce, soy sauce, hoisin sauce and the like -- at each table. While pho is tasty, is not spicy, so if you want spicy, you'll have to spice it up with jalapenos or hot sauce.
In this blog post, let us focus on my personal favorite pho joint -- Pho Saigon in Midtown. (Pho Saigon has several locations in Houston, Austin and even Lafayette, LA though I haven't been to any of these locations.) The restaurant is located in a L-shaped strip mall that also houses other ethnic businesses, such as a Vietnamese bakery. The mall also has the curious distinction of having a rooftop parking lot in case you can't find any spot on the ground parking lot, which is almost always full. Like most pho restaurants, this place isn't fancy but clean, and almost always busy. However, you rarely have to wait for a table, as service is speedy.
A small bowl of beef pho (which is NOT small, by the way) would set you back $5.75. If you want a bigger bowl, that would be $6.75. if you can't decide what kind of beef, you can always get my favorite dish, #9 Special Combination which has everything plus meatballs and tripe, for $7.50. They have many traditional Vietnamese drinks, such as iced coffee and tapioca tea, as well as American soft drinks, and the prices vary from $1.35 to $2.95. So, the overall cost of a meal, not including tax and tip, could be less than $10 per person.
If you feel like splurging on an appetizer. Pho Saigon has spring rolls varying between $1.40 and $2.75. My personal favorite is the Vietnamese eggroll, which is stuffed with pork, shrimp, carrot and vermicelli and deep-fried, served with a tangy fish sauce-based dip. It is $1.40 per roll.
Pho Saigon also serves chicken pho, other types of noodle soup and com dia (steamed rice dishes served with grilled meat), though I haven't tried many of them. I did once have beef stew with egg noodles (#31 mi bo kho) which was very good and served with yummy baguette bread.