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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

101 Reasons For Pho

Published: October 28, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

Okay, so its not really 101 reasons. Its actually 1.01. Because thats how much your entire meal will cost. (Beat that, Usdan). Okay, so maybe I exaggerated a little. But its not too far off the mark.

So what is Pho? Chances are that you know it from wandering around The Garage in Cambridge. You may have also noticed it either walking down Newbury Street or while on Washington Street in Chinatown. There are a few other branches of the local chain scattered about, but no matter which location you go to (although the menus do vary a little from location to location) you still get delicious Vietnamese food for cheap. And, if youre like me and always watching your bank account slowly drain away, thats a very good thing.

However, if you havent been to Pho, or only been to the one in Harvard Square, I recommend that you go to their Chinatown branch. Its the location that started it all, plus it has the added bonus of not being in the exact spot where the Brandeis shuttle drops you off. So venture down the green line to Boylston following traffic down Boylston, past Tremont Street, Make a right onto Washington and youll see Pho just past LaGrange Street (or just get off the red line at Downtown Crossing and walk down Washington Street).

So what does the original Pho Pasteur have? Well, for one, the atmosphere of Chinatown and the view of Washington Street certainly beats looking out the window and seeing people walking around in a pseudo-mall setting, carrying Ben and Jerrys ice cream (although its true the other window has a nice view of a parking garage). Many people think the food is better in Chinatown, although, personally out of the two locations Ive eaten at, both have been equally yummy. The menu is, of course, in Vietnamese, but the descriptions are in English and you order by number to efface any embarrassment over trying to order something unpronounceable.

While youre perusing the menu, you get to sip hot tea that just makes you more excited for the Vietnamese food youre about to eat. Speaking of eating, this place has more than enough dishes for you to waver indecisively over. And its okay to send the waiter away for a few minutes while you keep looking they actually come back within a few minutes. Plus, after you order, your food actually shows up pretty quickly. There are soups which come in portions big enough to be a meal, as well as your choice of beef, chicken, seafood, and vegetarian entrees which come in mouth-watering sauces with a side of white rice. Or you can get various meats with veggies over rice or vermicelli, which is a thinner than angel hair type of noodles that goes well with just about anything. I just had the pork and shrimp with vegetables over vermicelli (number 58 in Chinatown, if youre interested), which comes in a big bowl and is a perfect mix. I could just eat my way around the bowl through the different sections of foods, or stir them all together and enjoy. And while I had a few embarrassing moments involving the vermicelli and chopsticks, it was all part of the fun (and I suppose its okay to cave and use a fork… in certain instances).

But no matter where you go, even if you manage to somehow end up at the Allston, MA location, the greatest thing about Pho is the food, which is exactly as it should be. Its not fancy, you wouldnt go there to celebrate some major life event, and its small (some call it cozy), but you should definitely go with your friends and enjoy splitting a bill that isnt through the roof. Maybe not this weekend (make your parents pay for something way more expensive), but at some point you have to try it – its a piece of Boston thats not to be missed. Even if youve already been, go and get something youve never had, because the menus long enough and, from past experience, its bound to be good. So go and dive in I dare you to finish one of their bowls.

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