Where to Get Your Pho Fix

In the planetary battle of international cuisine, Vietnam’s
traditional noodle soup pho
definitely sits at the royal table. A pleasing, belly-warming blend
of rice noodles, a nice smokey/sweet broth, raw and cooked beef (or
other meats and seafood if you prefer), and a do-it-yourself blend
of basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, and jalapenos, pho is a
daily delight for commoners and kingfolk alike. It’s good on hot
days, better on cold ones, perfect for sick ones, and some of the
best food to eat alone while reading a magazine or book. In my
neighborhood, someone’s eating pho at least once a week,
if not more. And ever since Saigon In and
opened on Milpas Street a year or so ago, there’s only been
one place to get our pho fix.


Despite being raised in East San Jose, where I’ve since learned
is the California mecca for pho, my introduction to the
soup didn’t come until after college when I ventured with my
Chinese American friend Karin to the two places that sold
Vietnamese in Old Town Goleta. We’d go every other month or so as I
slowly developed my addiction, enduring the afternoon drives to the
Good Land and surviving at least one episode being too cocky and
ordering the real deal, with tendons and stomach lining and all.
Those places still sell great stuff, but when I found Saigon, I
discovered a broth that was more flavorful, service that was more
friendly, and side dishes like the spring rolls and egg rolls that
helped prepare my taste buds for the pho experience. (For
the record, Karin liked the Old Town places better, finding
Saigon’s broth a little on the greasy side.)


These days, my typical order goes like this: pork egg rolls,
which come with cilantro and lettuce to wrap, and fish sauce to
dip; the pho tai nam, with raw and cooked beef; and a
lemonade, prepared ever so sweet and sour and serving as a reliable
beverage to wash down the spicy soup. Every so often I’ll opt for
the Vietnamese beer. If it’s lunchtime, I can be in and out in
literally under half an hour. For dinner, I linger longer, but it’s
still a fast affair. And then when the bill comes, my smile widens,
for I can scrape by under $10 if I’m careful. And eating either
lunch or dinner for under $10 in town is quite an accomplishment.
No wonder I can’t stop returning every week.

The Details: Saigon In and Out is located at 318 North Milpas
Street and is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Friday and 11 a.m.
to 10 p.m. on the weekends. It’s closed on Tuesdays. Call 966-0916
or see www.saigoninandout.com


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