Forget bomb cyclones and polar vortexes and single-digit windchills. The answer to our cold-weather problems can be found in a piping-hot bowl of pho, a Vietnamese delicacy akin to a noodle soup, layered with a hearty broth, vegetables and a choice of protein. Here are a couple of spots to get your fill.
Caphe Banh Mi, 407 Cameron St.
Walk past this tiny storefront in the shadow of City Hall on nearly any night of the week and you’ll find a throng of customers waiting outside. In the cold, in the rain, in the heat of summer or even in the snow, the gaggle waits patiently (or, sometimes, not so patiently) for their turn inside the restaurant, a veritable shoebox of a café that churns out bowl after bowl of hot, flavorful pho.
Not to worry: Your wait will be rewarded. When you get a seat, order up your beverage of choice — a Vietnamese beer is always a winner — and then peruse the menu for your main course. At Caphe Banh Mi, pho is never a mistake, in any of its various forms. Concoct the perfect combination yourself, or let the good folks in the kitchen do it for you with one of the restaurant’s specials.
An advantage to choosing your own pho adventure: You can put together precisely the proteins you want. From brisket to meatballs, skirt flank to filet mignon, choose three meat selections and await the final piping-hot result. Or go with “The Works,” which is exactly how it sounds — more than half a dozen protein selections put together in one bowl.
Not into red meat? Not to worry. Chicken pho comes to your rescue. And vegetarians won’t be left out, either; unlike many traditional pho shops, where beef broth is the only game in town, Caphe Banh Mi’s vegetarian broth is a welcome change of pace, and the pho comes teeming with tofu, mushrooms, cauliflower, and carrots.
The Vietnamese eatery isn’t a pho-only joint; the menu is chock full of rice and vermicelli dishes, as well as banh mi sandwiches, all of which are worthy of space on the table.
Pho 33, 540 John Carlyle St.
Tucked away in the middle of the Carlyle district, well off the main drag, Pho 33 offers up plenty of pho options just waiting to be explored. The Zen-like décor is welcoming and lures customers to linger awhile — but as the restaurant has plenty of seating, that’s usually OK, even during the busy lunch rush.
You can’t say Pho 33 lacks a selection of pho choices. From the selection of three proteins to a chef-inspired bowl of brothy goodness, there is a plethora of options from which to choose. One of the more popular selections is an homage to its namesake, Pho 33. Chock full of eye of round and brisket, the soup is a meaty experience with plenty of noodles to balance things out.
Pho 33 also offers up several seafood varieties of the dish; the pho vongole is a clam-based version, and the seafood pho is a grab bag of various underwater proteins in a seafood broth, rather than the standard beef. Chicken lovers will also be at home at pho 33, as will vegetarians; the latter edition is served in a mushroom broth with plenty of veggies to keep things interesting.
The restaurant does a booming business at lunch, pulling from the Patent and Trade Office crowd as well as from the other neighboring businesses. Admittedly, the pho itself can be quite a commitment, but thankfully there are plenty of other selections should you wish to go with something a bit lighter. Pho 33’s selection of banh mi sandwiches has something for everyone, from hard-core carnivores to vegans, and the rice and vermicelli platters offer a nice middle ground between a light bite and an enormous bowl of pho.
Hope Nelson owns and operates the Kitchen Recessionista blog, located at www.kitchenrecessionista.com. Email her any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.