Place: Pho So 1, Little Saigon
Price: $6.99, large ($6.15, small)
In the bowl: Pictured is #20: pho tai, nam, gau, gan, sach with rare beef, well-done flank, fatty flank, tendon and tripe along with banh pho rice noodles, onions, green onions, and beef broth
Supporting cast/What to do: Before your bowl comes out, you'll get the "accessory" plate with bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, Thai basil, lime wedges. Add these to your heart's desire, along with Sriracha, hoison sauce, and/or chili oil that's found on your table.Noodling around: This is the 38th Mein Man column, and it's the very first one to feature pho. This Vietnamese noodle soup is one of my favorite quick meals in Seattle, and there are certainly many places to get it.
Part of the appeal is that pho is "fast food." Order, and it comes quickly, as the broth has been simmering for so long, and the thin-sliced meat in your customized order cooks almost instantaneously.
Another thing I love about pho is the interactivity. You can change the flavor of the bowl along the way by altering the acidity, spice level, etc. with the garnishes and sauces.
Also, there are so variations of pho bowls. Pho So 1 has twenty types of pho. Most are pho bo, the beef variety, with a wide combination of beef cuts. I generally choose the one with the most meats, excluding the meat ball, whose taste and texture I find unappealing. I especially love the tendon for its fattiness and the tripe for its chewiness. (It's hard to find these two items at pho restaurants in America's heartland.) And the variety enables each slurp and spoonful to offer something different.
Pho So 1 serves some of the best "low-cost" (cheap Vietnamese joint) pho I've had in Seattle. The broth is flavorful and tastes fresh, with a depth of beefiness and spices.
If you want more: You can order your bowl with extra meat, meat balls, or noodles for an extra $1.00 each. But if you're looking for something different (this is one of the places that doesn't give you a cream puff), I recommend a couple of rolls--either the fresh spring rolls, or the crispy egg and pork rolls if you want something fried (both are $3.19 for a pair).
Be aware/beware: The bun bo hue here is very good, and there are even kid portions of noodles available. It's a fun place for the family, with a large fish tank in the entry, and yet another of the good restaurants on the ground level of this Asian shopping plaza. (Recall that Hue Ky Mi Gia is here, and that parking in the garage below the street can be a nightmare.)