The Pho Heatmap: 10 Great Renditions in Four Boroughs

From Eater New York

Vietnam’s most famous soup, pho (pronounced “F-AH,” like steam escaping from a teapot) originated only a century ago in French-colonial Vietnam, appearing on the streets of Hanoi in 1913. Some say it was invented in the nearby town of Van Cu, but it was in the French colonial capital that the soup, assembled on the spot by strolling vendors wearing special hats called mu pho, began to flourish as the city’s most popular street food. As R.W. Apple noted in Far Flung and Well Fed, “Pho was developed by cooks in Hanoi, not in the South, and not until after the French arrived late in the 19th century, importing their love of beef to a pork eating culture.”

The top 10 bowls of pho to eat in New York.

By legend it is said that the best examples of pho are made by boiling beef bones for five days. Though it started in the north, the soup has spread throughout Vietnam, and each province has its own style. For example, Saigon phos are supposedly darker, sweeter, and more spice-intensive, with heavier and wider rice noodles. A large proportion of Vietnamese immigrants to New York originally came from the Mekong Delta south of Saigon, and many of the versions we have here probably originated there.

But however you want to spin its history, pho is a damn fine soup and one of the best cold-weather fortifiers around. Here are 10 of the best examples I’ve found, in ranked order.


The name of the restaurant means “Morning Star,” and there’s a startling freshness to the pho here that makes the name seem apropos. It also displays a richness and spiciness such as we might expect from a Saigon-leaning version, and the pile of herbs often contains sawtooth Vietnamese cilantro, commonly found in the pho parlors of Atlantic City, Houston, and Mountain View, California, but rarely here. Idiosyncratically, this pho contains only shaved rare steak, well-poached brisket, and beef balls; that’s the prerogative of the pho maker and we readily assent. (Few are fond, anyway, of the rubbery white “bible” tripe found in most deluxe renditions of the soup).


Located in New York’s only Cambodian neighborhood, a stone’s throw from Edgar Allen Poe’s cottage in the Fordham section of the Bronx, Com Tam is a peach of a Vietnamese cafe, offering a working-class take on the cuisine that has made it a neighborhood favorite among diners of several ethnicities, including Dominicans and West Africans. The pho here is light and subtle, with a tracery of glinting oil upon its surface, and the bouncy beef balls are the stars of the show.


An Choi is a Lower East Side pho and banh mi specialist started by Houston expats of Vietnamese extraction. As such, the deluxe pho is beefy in a uniquely Texas way, not only in sheer quantity of meat, but in range, too: this is the only pho in town I know of that features oxtails (to good effect). The décor seeks to recreate a street-food stall, but the pho is on the expensive side.


Throughout the first decade of this century Pho Grand was the city’s pho mainstay. With good reason: The bowl was lusher and more flavorful than almost anything else out there, the tripe chewier, the tendon more generously turned out and more delicate in texture, the brisket nicely rimmed with fat. And the rice noodles are still more delicate than most, rippling like Ophelia’s hair in the dusky broth.


Bun-ker is a thoroughly hipsterized Vietnamese restaurant in the shadow of the humongous Western Beef supermarket on Metropolitan Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens, just across the porous border from Bushwick. As if giving its neighbor the cold shoulder, it offers only a chicken-based pho ga — a dish that debuted in Vietnam in the 1930s — rather than one based on beef. Nevertheless, the soup verges on the superb. It’s lush with poultry, cilantro and green onions, so that tossing in the basil leaves seems almost like an afterthought.

Read the full article to continue the list from Eater New York.

Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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