Like most Austinites, I welcome cooler weather after enduring a seemingly endless summer. November marks the beginning of sweater weather, and you can bet that about the time I reach for something knitted, I’m darting out the door to devour a steaming bowl of pho in Austin.
Of all the Vietnamese dishes to garner attention in the West, none have achieved the same level of adoration as phở (pronounced “fuh”), which also happens to be the national dish of Vietnam. Pho is comfort food at its finest: warm and hearty, and served in generous portions. Piping hot broth is poured over rice noodles and the desired protein or veggies, then served with garnishes on the side that include basil, lime, bean sprouts and jalapeño. Sriracha and hoisin sauce round out the flavor profile, satisfying all senses of the palate: savory, salty, sweet, sour, bitter and spicy.
Traditional pho is made by simmering marrow-rich beef bones. The liquid is seasoned with a variety of spices including ginger, cinnamon, star anise, clove and cardamom, creating a broth so complex in its layering of flavors that it will never taste the same from one kitchen to the next. There are many variations of the traditional dish available in Austin, including vegan options. Gluten-sensitive? Good news! Pho is gluten-free (so long as you forego hoisin sauce).
The next time you’re in search of a magical hangover cure or desire an inexpensive meal to warm you on a cold day, give one of my top five Vietnamese restaurants in Austin a try.
1/ Tan My
Tan My has been serving the Austin community for 20 years. The family-owned and operated restaurant is located in a strip mall in Northeast Austin with an unassuming facade and no-frills interior. What it lacks in ambience, Tan My makes up for in flavor and friendliness. The Tran family has a knack for making customers feel at home. When I visit, they address me by name and know my order by heart.
What to order: Pho Tai (beef eye round steak). Bun Bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup, is also a customer favorite.
1601 Ohlen Road – Yelp
2/ Pho Please
Pho Please has a simplistic menu and sleek interior design atypical of traditional pho restaurants. The fast casual eatery may be less than a year old, but they serve the best bowl of pho in the East Riverside area.
What to order: Chicken & Veggie Pho. Brisket Pho, Bao Bun and Thai tea are also popular menu items. Vegan pho is available.
1920 East Riverside Dr. – Website
Another fast-casual spot, PhoNatic is an Austin chain with five convenient locations in the area to satisfy both your cravings for pho and pho puns. As they put it, “Pho is phresh, phast & phun!” Despite the ultra-casual atmosphere, PhoNatic consistently serves up a wide variety of great Vietnamese dishes at reasonable prices.
What to order: Filet Mignon Pho. Vegetarian options are available and customers love the self-serve condiment bar.
Multiple locations – Website
4/ Pho Dan
Located in North Austin off North Lamar Boulevard, Pho Dan stands above the rest of the other Vietnamese restaurants located just a stone’s throw away. The open, airy space with large windows creates an inviting atmosphere and service is always speedy.
What to order: The veggie pho here is my personal favorite and customers rave about the tofu spring rolls.
11220 N. Lamar Blvd. Ste. 200 – Yelp
5/ Phở Thái Sơn
Phở Thái Sơn holds a special place in my heart, but not for their pho. While they make a decent pho, the quality and consistency of their other menu items combined with unique touches that create a memorable dining experience earn Phở Thái Sơn a spot on this list. At their Allandale location (one of six) the friendly waitstaff, cozy booths, fresh produce and complimentary after-meal tea always have me leaving in a better mood than when I arrived.
What to order: My personal favorites are the spring rolls, Bò Lúc Lác (Shaken Beef), Calamari Salad and vermicelli bowls. They indicate which items on the menu are gluten-free and there is a large variety of vegetarian options.
Multiple locations – Website
@theAustinot wants to know:
What are your favorite Vietnamese restaurants in Austin that serve amazing pho?
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