Pho has been around for a century and is indisputably the national dish of Vietnam. A good pho takes hours to make; beef bones and parts are simmered under low heat to obtain a rich, complex flavor. Pho is typically divided into two camps. Southern pho is the more common one, with an abundant use of spices and flavorings (fish sauce, hoisin, etc.) and versatile cuts of meat like tripe and brisket. Northern pho is much more simplistic - the noodles are flatter and wider, and the focus is on its pure beef broth. The main ingredients are rice noodles and thinly sliced raw beef. In the north, accoutrements are not necessary. Here are some of the best places to get your pho fix in Los Angeles.
Golden Deli Vietnamese Restaurant
Golden Deli is L.A.’s pho sweetheart. There are two locations within miles of each other and the lines are notably long. The pho has a wide appeal because of its complex broth, delicate meats, and soft noodles. Golden Deli is consistent and you can get a combination of raw beef, cooked, tripe, and/or tendon. A tip: Don’t miss out on their goi cuon, Vietnamese spring rolls wrapped with rice paper and stuffed with hefty amounts of shrimp.
With two locations in the San Fernando Valley, Pho 999 is one of the few places in the 818 to get your pho fix. The Van Nuys location is right next to the 99 Ranch market. Admittedly, the soup isn’t as fantastic as the selections in the San Gabriel Valley and Orange County, but it works well for the price point. The baked catfish and beef over tomato rice are also recommended.
This place is a chicken specialist, so sticking to poultry is suggested - the pho ga (chicken pho) is a standout. The chicken is leaner than conventional types, and it’s served on the side with an addicting garlic and ginger dipping sauce. If you’re ordering for two, try throwing in the Hainan chicken for good measure. Or at the very least, get it for take-out.
Pho Pasteur in Rosemead makes a fantastic brisket pho. The rice noodles, made fresh, are chewy and don’t stick together. Most importantly, the broth is complex but not overwhelming. Pho Pasteur is also known for their bun bo hue, a beef soup with rice noodles thicker and rounder than pho. It gets crowded in here, but there’s a service bell attached to each table to help expedite the entire process.
If you’re looking for a hipster chic setting to enjoy your pho, Phorage is the place to be. The restaurant boasts three types of pho: washugyu beef, chicken, and oxtail. While the toppings deviate from the norm, it’s still all really delicious. The broth is substantial – no doubt a by-product of hours of work. They source their chickens from Mary’s Free Range Chicken in the San Joaquin Valley and are big on local, sustainable ingredients. Phorage is also MSG-free.
The broth at Viet Huong in South El Monte is bursting with flavor. The ingredient-to-soup ratio is idyllic; they’re very generous with their raw beef and thinly sliced onions. The pho dac biet is highly recommended - “dac biet” means “combo with everything.” The small will cost you $7.95 and comes with a hefty ensemble of rare beef, well-done brisket, flank, tendon, and tripe. The whole bowl is flavorful enough already, but you can ask for a side of their beef oil to take it up another notch.