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Monday, November 3, 2014

Pho-Get About It: 7 spots to eat Pho in Baton Rouge

Pho (pronounced fuh) is a beautiful thing. There's something magical about it. Of all the wonderful qualities to love about this Vietnamese classic, its simplicity is what I respect the most. A broth based soup accentuated with sweet Thai basil, earthy bean sprouts, a spritz of lime, and the delectable fruit of a fresh jalapeño, pho is the meat and potatoes of Vietnamese cuisine. I fed my pho craving quite a few times to bring you what I believe are the best places to get a bowl of pho in Baton Rouge. Here's the list of seven places to grab a bowl, ranked lowest to highest:


7. Dream Berrie Café: 3851 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd.

Dream Berrie is extremely popular. It may be because of the funky, bright interior or the fact that you can fill up on Vietnamese cuisine and get frozen yogurt all under one roof. I certainly indulged in a heaping cup of fro-yo after my spicy bowl of pho. While I enjoyed Dream Berrie, I give it the lowest ranking because the flavor left a lot to be desired. After adding copious amounts of basil, fresh jalapeños and chili oil, I took it down. The truth of the matter is, each bowl of pho should be delicious on it's own before you put your personal spin on it.

Dream Berrie Café's Pho Tai Chin: Rare Eye Round & Well Done Brisket $7.99
Dream Berrie Café's Pho Tai Chin: Rare Eye Round & Well Done Brisket $7.99


6. Viet Garden: 11990 Florida Blvd.

Viet Garden is a fairly large space (in comparison to other Vietnamese restaurants in Baton Rouge) and had quite a few diners, which is always a good sign. The broth packed more flavor than Dream Berrie, and I liked the plethora of protein choices.

Viet Garden's Pho Dac Biet: Eye Round Steak, Well-Done Flank, Fat Brisket, Soft Tendon, & Meatballs $7.99
Viet Garden's Pho Dac Biet: Eye Round Steak, Well-Done Flank, Fat Brisket, Soft Tendon, & Meatballs $7.99


5. Drunken Fish: 4410 Highland Rd.

It's nice to have a place to get pho so close to...anything. Baton Rouge has superb ethnic food, but most of it lives out on Florida Boulevard near Sherwood Forest. While the parking lot for Drunken Fish may be a nightmare at times, it's definitely closer to the city center. Tasty, convenient location, sold.

Drunken Fish's Eye Round Pho $8
Drunken Fish's Eye Round Pho $8


4. Little Saigon: 11224 Florida Blvd.

Little Saigon has a menu similar to most Vietnamese restaurants with choices ranging from spring rolls and stir fry to Vermicelli and Banh Mi. The atmosphere lacks much of an identity, but it presents a clean black and white feel with seemingly new tables and chairs. The pho itself is quite onion-y and salty compared to many others, though delightful in its own right. After slurping down a few noodles I decided to doctor it up with a little chili oil, basil, and jalapeño. It's solid, but if I'm in that area, I'm going to one of the next few on the list.

Little Saigon's Combination Pho: Beef Eye Round, Brisket, and Beef Meatball $8.95
Little Saigon's Combination Pho: Beef Eye Round, Brisket, and Beef Meatball $8.95



3. Sa Dec: 1124 Marque Anne Dr.

A hidden gem located right off of Florida Blvd., Sa Dec is a no frills, authentic Vietnamese shop. A menu that only spans the length of two pages offers up steamed bun dishes, a few pho combinations, and very little else. You can get a pretty decent bowl of pho here, but be warned that they only accept cash

Sa Dec's Pho Tai Bo Vien: Rare Beef & Beef Ball Noodle Soup $8
Sa Dec's Pho Tai Bo Vien: Rare Beef & Beef Ball Noodle Soup $8


2. Saigon Noodles: 1295 N. Sherwood Forest Blvd.

Not to be confused with Little Saigon around the corner, Saigon Noodles boasts a more sophisticated interior. Unlike most "hole in the wall" ethic eateries in Baton Rouge, Saigon feels, in the words of the unadventurous, "safe." They play coffee shop covers of popular pop songs, but make no mistake, their food is legitimate. The Autumn Rolls were a fresh beginning, and the pho did not disappoint. Saigon Noodles had an array of protein combinations to choose from. I chose to try something I didn't find at any of the other Vietnamese restaurants in town: oxtail. Tender and slightly fatty with porous bones, ox tail brings something special to a bowl of pho.

Saigon Noodles' PO26: Beef Ox Tail, Thinly Sliced Eye Round Steak,  Well Done Beef Flank, Beef Meat Ball and Beef Tendon $9.75
Saigon Noodles' PO26: Beef Ox Tail, Thinly Sliced Eye Round Steak,
Well Done Beef Flank, Beef Meat Ball and Beef Tendon $9.75


1. Dang's Vietnamese Restaurant: 12385 Florida Blvd.

My Chief Confusion Coordinator, Blair, used to be a Saigon Noodles loyalist. She had one sip of the pho at Dang's and has been converted. We started out with some roasted duck drizzled lightly with hoisin sauce accompanied by fluffy, pillow-like steam buns. From there I ordered the combination pho, and Blair decided to try their special that day, chicken curry. While not traditionally Vietnamese, this lemon grassy curry with flares of coconut milk essentially came as a pho-sized bowl of chicken curry with noodles. The pho at Dang's is bursting with flavor on a level far above the rest. It needed no accouterments to bring on the rich flavor that every broth strives for. While the restaurant itself might not be anything special, the cuisine at Dang's exemplifies the amazing food that the Red Stick has to offer.

Dang's Dac Biet: Eye Round Steak, Brisket, Tendon, Tripe, and Meatballs $8.25
Dang's Dac Biet: Eye Round Steak, Brisket, Tendon, Tripe, and Meatballs $8.25