A steaming bowl of pho (pronounced “fuh”) is practically the face of Vietnamese cuisine in America. Here are six local variations:
The standard:pho at Le Fat
If you’re going to have one bowl of pho in Atlanta, make it Le Fat. The noodles come flat and wide, in the style commonly found in Hanoi, offering a more substantial chew than most Atlanta pho shops. And, the precision and depth of flavor of the broth stand apart. A combination of fatty brisket, lean flank steak and “beef balls” (meatballs) provides a nice variety without the more daunting components, such as tripe and tendon, of a typical pho dac biet. Bonus: For just $3, you can opt for a side of pho broth if you’re not in a noodle mood.
Le Fat. 935 Marietta St. NW, Atlanta. 404-439-9850, lefatatl.com.
Best vegetarian: pho rau cai at Vietvana
Unlike most beefy-brothed pho, Vietvana brews up a vegetable broth that somehow passes the “would it cure a cold” challenge. The mixed vegetable toppings are impressively fresh and flavorful, including tender bok choy, perfect shiitake mushrooms (thankfully not the reconstituted version), crisp broccoli and sliced baby corn. Best of all, a topping of crisp fried onion packs an umami crunch. Vietvana also is one of the few spots that makes its own noodles.
Vietvana. 2831 E. College Ave., Avondale Estates. 404-963-2757, vietvana.com.
Best chicken:pho ga at Pho Dai Loi 2
You really can’t go wrong with any of the 20 options at Pho Dai Loi. As good as the beef broth versions are, though, the pho ga may have you switching from team cow to team chicken. Pho Dai Loi’s crystal-clear chicken broth deftly manages a tightrope walk of bright and deep flavors, with a spice profile that keeps it firmly in Vietnam, and tender slices of chicken that are every bit as satisfying as the more common beef options. I won’t always order chicken pho, but when I do, it will be at Pho Dai Loi.
Pho Dai Loi 2. 4186 Buford Highway NE, Atlanta. 404-633-2111, Facebook: Pho Dai Loi Restaurant. Additional locations in Forest Park and Duluth.
Best late night:pho tai gau at Pho 24
The neon sign says “Now Open 24 Hrs.” However, if you arrive any time between 6 and 9 a.m, the door will be locked. Pho 24 is a growing mini-chain around Atlanta, and the hours vary significantly by location, but the pho broth here seems tailor-made for late-night consumption, packed with beef intensity and, presumably, collagen (pho is known as an excellent hangover cure). Choosing the combo of tai (thinly sliced rare beef) and gau (sliced fatty brisket) allows your late-night brain to alternate between lean and fatty bites to fit its hazy mood.
Pho 24. 4646 Buford Highway, Chamblee. 770-710-0178, pho24chamblee.com. Additional locations around metro Atlanta.
Fanciest:pho bo at Le Colonial
If you want your pho served in an ultra elegant faux French colonial setting in Buckhead, this is the place for you. How posh is Le Colonial’s Hanoi-style beef pho? They use wagyu oxtail to make the broth, a doily rests beneath the beautiful ceramic bowl the pho arrives in, and the typical pile of bean sprouts and squeeze bottles of grocery store hoisin sauce are nowhere to be found. Le Colonial’s pho broth packs a deeply soothing richness that is indeed a notch up from less expensive pho joints around town.
Le Colonial. 3035 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. 404-341-0500, lecolonialatlanta.com.
Best local spin: collard green pho at Richards’ Southern Fried
Pho means “noodles” in Vietnamese, but who are we to quibble with the brilliance that is the noodle-free collard green pho at Richards’ Southern Fried? Anyone who has slurped up the pot liquor from a batch of collard greens will recognize the parallels of these soul-warming liquids from opposite ends of the globe. Richards’ pho broth earns its depth from a long simmer with chicken bones, and toppings of pickled jalapeno and peppered bacon add to the distinctly Southern spice profile. A scattering of green onion and the chance to squeeze on some hot sauce extend the pho commonalities. With broth this good, you might not even miss the noodles.
Richards’ Southern Fried. 99 Krog St. NE, Atlanta. 678-732-9594, richardssouthernfried.com.
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