Guides

Where to Eat Pho in Philly: The Ultimate Guide

Philadelphia has been a great pho town for as long as we can remember. Here are all the best places to get a bowl of that beefy, brothy goodness.


best pho philadelphia vietnamese noodle soup

Le Viet | Facebook

Philly has never been lacking in good pho. But unlike ramen, soup dumplings, or fried chicken, pho has never really had a boom cycle in Philly — a time where there was none, then too much, then a solid list of excellent survivors once the pretenders vanished. I mean, it might have had that. But if it did, it was before my time. I’ve never known a moment in this city where excellent pho wasn’t available all over the place.

And this is both a good and bad thing. It’s good because abundance is good — because it’s a comfort to know that wherever we are, should that urge for fragrant, rich broth and the comfort of noodles overtake us, there’s probably a pho joint within a few minutes’ drive. It’s bad because a wealth of options breeds paralysis. We tend to pick our favorites and then stick to them with near-religious ferocity.

So the purpose of this list is to let you know that there are other places out there beyond your circle of favorites. It’s to tempt you into branching out. Into trying something new. It’s to catalog the wealth available to us and help you to find a new awesome bowl should you find yourself far from home.

So let’s begin with…

The Pho That You Must Try First

best pho philadelphia

Pho Ha Saigon | Facebook

Pho 75, Bella Vista
Pho 75 is kind of Philly’s baseline pho experience — a benchmark against which all others can be judged. It’s a classic, that operates under the basic pho shop formula: excellent pho and nothing else, in a white box of a room. It’s the place that a lot of people go to most of the time. The chopsticks are plastic and the whole deal is cash-only, but that’s kind of as it should be. Pho is a simple, working man’s food, and Pho 75 is a simple, working man’s cafe. 1122 Washington Avenue

Pho Ha Saigon, Multiple locations
With three locations, Pho Ha Saigon has Philly nicely bracketed. Though it’s not the only thing the kitchen does, beef pho is the core of the menu here — big bowls done fast and cheap, with room for endless tinkering. 320 West Oregon Avenue, 575 Adams Avenue, 1601 North 15th Street

Saigon Noodle Bar, Chestnut Hill
The two best things about this small, simple cafe at Market at the Fareway? They’ve got a solid pho ga on the menu that gets a lot of love and attention, because it’s one of only five types of pho available — and you can get a bowl of it for less than ten bucks. 8221 Germantown Avenue

Pho Street, Multiple locations
The style at these small, bright cafes is Northern Vietnamese street food. The menu offers ten different kinds of pho at three different locations, and not one of them will run you more than $11. Go for the pho bo vien (beef meatball) and a side of Vietnamese hot wings. 2104 Market Street; 204 Baltimore Pike, Springfield; 1001 West Lancaster Avenue, Bryn Mawr

Cafe Anh Hong, Upper Darby
Simple, fast, basic place for good pho. Though the spicy bun bo Hue seems to be the pro’s choice here. 7036 Terminal Square

Stock, Fishtown
Both Stock locations (in Rittenhouse Square and Fishtown) offer soups, sandwiches and noodle bowls for lunch and dinner. But only the Fishtown flagship has a proper pho on the menu — two, actually, a chicken version and a vegan mushroom pho with tofu. The soups remain the big draw here, their long-simmered broth serving as the base for several varieties beyond pho. The offerings here are a bit fancier than usual (and include such non-traditional ingredients as fried shallots and chile jam), but if a thoughtful, jumped-up pho is what you’re after, then Stock should be on your list. 308 East Girard Avenue

Ngon Ngon Restaurant, Society Hill
The slogan here is “I’m Crazy With Pho,” and the menu bears that out. The Special Noodle Soup is a huge bowl of slow-simmered, 16-hour broth, tender eye round, brisket on the bone (which is awesome), marrow, split meatballs, and all the accoutrements. It’s an amazing bowl of soup, and a can’t-miss for all of you out there looking for something new. 615 South 3rd Street

The Best Pho in South Philly and Bella Vista

best pho south philadelphia

Le Viet | Facebook

Pho Cyclo Cafe
Personally, I like a pho place with a small menu. The more focused the kitchen is on doing one thing really well, the better. Pho Cyclo, on the other hand, has a huge menu, offering pretty much anything anyone could ever want — plus pho. But this new-ish spot is also quickly developing a fan base of people who love it for exactly that reason: because you can get great pho there, plus anything else you could possibly want. 2124 South Broad Street

Cafe Diem
Okay, look. The bun bo Hue? That’s what everyone talks about here. And it’s just as good as everyone says it is. But if you’re looking for a bowl of pho, Cafe Diem does that too — and does it really well. The ingredients are fresh, the broth is gentler than the BBH broth (of course) but deeply flavorful, and the menu at Cafe Diem is so short and focused that you know every item is getting lots of attention from the kitchen. 1031 South 8th Street

Nam Phuong
No matter what kind of Vietnamese soup it is you’re looking for, Nam Phuong has it. That’s almost a guarantee. It has pho and things that are kind of like pho. There’s bun bo Hue (of course) and duck soup with bamboo shoots, egg noodle beef stew, and Chinese needle noodles. All of them are interesting, the pho is very good, and if you’re looking to broaden your appreciation of Vietnamese liquid cuisine, this is the place to go. 1100 Washington Avenue

Pho Ha
Old school, simple and a long-time favorite for long-time pho eaters. The quality (and MSG levels) seem to vary occasionally, but when this kitchen is on, they do almost two dozen different kinds of beef pho (plus another half-dozen other kinds) that can compete with the best around. It’s cash-only, but seriously cheap. And again, it has its own parking lot which is convenient as hell. 610 Washington Avenue

Le Viet
An upscale, modern Vietnamese restaurant that still offers very traditional flavors. The pho dac biet is the main event, with flank steak, brisket, meatballs, tendon, tripe, and sliced steak, all floating in a big bowl of broth and noodles. And it’s served in a dining room that’s got enough gloss to it the the jade martinis and glasses of Hanoi Punch on the tables don’t look out of place. 1019 South 11th Street

Cafe Viet Huong
Viet Huong is one of those places that gets overlooked more than it should. It stands up there among the best pho shops in the city, always has fast, friendly service and always has tables available. Seriously, next time you find yourself in the neighborhood and facing down the crowds at some of the other Vietnamese spots on Washington Avenue, give ’em a try. You won’t be disappointed. 1110 Washington Avenue

Banh Mi & Bottles
You like Pho Ha? Of course you do. We all do. But this place, which debuted a couple years ago on South Street, was opened by Tuan Phung. And Tuan’s dad is the head chef at Pho Ha. He helped Tuan and his team get things up and running, and it’s now an excellent spot for banh mi (of course), a drink or two, and big bowls of steaming pho. There’s Saigon-style beef (add some braised oxtail for $5 extra), organic chicken, and a portabello-and-enoki mushroom/tofu variety. The dinner special is a great deal, too: half a banh mi and a small pho for just $14. 712 South Street

Pho Saigon
Ask any 10 pho fanatics what their favorite spot is and 5 of them will probably say Pho Saigon. Granted, they’re likely split between these two locations, but the purists (a group that includes me) likely prefer the Bustleton Ave. spot for its slow-simmered beef pho, loaded down with meat, vegetables and a huge amount of noodles. If you’re after chicken pho, head for Pennsport. Pho Saigon on Bustleton has one of the rare broths that doesn’t really require any tinkering beyond a squeeze of lime. Plus, the Bustleton location has a parking lot and does take-out pho — both bonuses if you’re in a hurry. 6842 Bustleton Avenue, Northeast Philly and 1100 Columbus Boulevard, Pennsport

The Best Pho in Chinatown and the Northeast

best pho philadelphia chinatown

Vietnam Restaurant | Facebook

Pho Saigon
Ask any 10 pho fanatics what their favorite spot is and five of them will probably say Pho Saigon. Granted, they’re likely split between the two locations — there’s another in Pennsport — but the purists (a group that includes me) likely prefer the Bustleton Avenue spot for its slow-simmered beef pho, loaded down with meat, vegetables, and a huge amount of noodles. (If you’re after chicken pho, head to the Pennsport outpost.) Pho Saigon on Bustleton has one of the rare broths that doesn’t really require any tinkering beyond a squeeze of lime. Plus, it’s got a parking lot and does take-out pho — both bonuses if you’re in a hurry. 6842 Bustleton Avenue

Pho Xe Lua
Pho Xe Lua (or Pho Choo Choo because of the giant neon train on the sign) is one of those places that you should keep in your pocket until circumstances require it. It does excellent, inexpensive pho with a rich, deeply spiced broth — and great Vietnamese food in general — and is an excellent place to hit after having a few drinks in Chinatown. It isn’t open super late (11 p.m. on the weekends), but it’s the perfect place to go if you’re in Chinatown and overwhelmed by all the options. 907 Race Street

Vietnam House
You want a place for late-night pho? Vietnam House is it. Popular among kitchen crews, vampires, and Vietnamese insomniacs, this place stays open ’til last call on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends. 901 Race Street

Pho Cali
A big, comfortable place for pho fans right in the middle of Chinatown. The pho is solid, traditional, and served in large bowls that don’t skimp on any of the ingredients. 1000 Arch Street

Vietnam Restaurant
Vietnam was the first restaurant started by the Lai family, way back in 1984. It’s long been the benchmark by which newer Vietnamese restaurants are judged and has introduced the cuisine to generations of Philly eaters. With a dozen varieties of pho on the menu — everything from the simplest pho tai to bowls of noodle soup with duck leg, hot peppers, or fish cake — it remains a great place for a bowl of soup, no matter your level of pho literacy. And if you’re looking for a drink, Bar Saigon upstairs has you covered. 221 North 11th Street

The Best Pho in Kensington and Fishtown

best pho philadelphia fishtown

Street Side | Facebook

Thang Long
Sure, people know this place for its chicken pho. It’s a contender for the best, right up there alongside Thanh Thanh (see below). But look at the menu: shrimp wonton, roast pork, and duck pho for $9. That’s all I’m saying. 2534 Kensington Avenue

Cafe Pho Ga Thanh Thanh
In a lot of cities with a large community of Vietnamese restaurants, chicken pho can be hard to come by. At Cafe Pho Ga Thanh Thanh (aka Cafe Thanh Thanh), it’s right in the name. The pho ga (chicken pho) is the thing to order. You get your bowl of broth, then a whole or half chicken and a bowl of dipping sauce. You dip the chicken in the sauce, throw it in the broth, and all the flavors just come together. There’s often a line to get into this place, and that’s the reason. 2539 Kensington Avenue

Street Side
“Reflecting the best eats, beats, and vibes of Southeast Asia” — that’s their motto. And Street Side is doing it with a menu Asian streets foods, including either steak or brisket pho (or a combo of the two) for just $7. It’s BYO, and everything is served in a casual, colorful, funky space. Bonus: the Vietnamese coffee is excellent, and they’ve got Asian-style sugar donuts for dessert. 165 West Girard Avenue

The Best Pho in Graduate Hospital, West Philly and Fairmount

best pho west philadelphia

Vietnam Cafe | Facebook

Huong Tram
It’s big. It’s loud. It’s either crowded or empty and rarely seems to be anything in between. Huong Tram is another place with a big, spiral-bound menu of Vietnamese (and Chinese) dishes, but the beef pho with flank steak and the pho bo vien (with meatballs) are worth checking out. Plus, they do a big delivery business and seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to packing up a complicated soup for delivery. 1601 Washington Avenue

Vietnam Cafe
This is the sister restaurant to Chinatown’s classic Vietnam restaurant. It’s a lovely spot with vaulted ceilings, hanging lights, tiki drinks from the bar, and roughly the same, wide-ranging menu as the original, with a good number of pho options — all delicious, filling, and spicy when the menu says so. 816 South 47th Street

iPho
Banh mi, bubble tea, summer rolls, papaya salad — iPho’s menu hits all the classics. And the pho section is packed with almost 20 options, each available in three sizes, and even the biggest and fanciest of them can be yours for less than 11 bucks. 1921 Fairmount Avenue