Pittsburgh Restaurant Scene
D and I have no problem admitting that there are just some awesome restaurants that slip through the cracks. It is impossible for us to know ALL of the great dining spots in our beautiful city. For this we apologize. We have said in the past, if you have a restaurant out there we haven’t written about PLEASE email us or message us on our Facebook page. That being said, we always try to make a “mental-note” of places we see that may intrigue us. For the past few years one such place has been “calling” to me. This time out I am a One Man Army, D is busy at work and I am hungry for lunch.
Pho Van in the Strip always had the look of a diamond in the rough style restaurant, for me anyways. Pho- usually pronounced fuh, is a Vietnamese noodle soup. The components and style can vary greatly. But there are always two constants- noodles and broth. I have no point of reference for what constitutes authentic versus Americanized Pho. So I am basing my love for this place strictly on the taste.
Pho Van is a very unassuming spot next to Grandpa Joe’s Candy on Penn Avenue. The décor is a few most likely fake Bamboo sticks and a couple framed photos. I’m ok with it because the decorations couldn’t compete with the Pho.
Since D is not with me I have the tough task of narrowing down what I can order on my own. Without question a giant bowl of Pho will be the main course, but which one? First I place an order for crispy rolls- fried egg rolls with ground pork, mushrooms, carrots and clear noodles served with a sweet chili sauce. Very good and I was happy not to have to share one with D (don’t tell her I said that).
Now, for the main event, I chose to order the Combination Pho, which contains rare eye of round steak, beef meatballs, beef tripe and beef tendons. The server wanted to warn me that my soup would contain both tripe and tendons, I enthusiastically responded “Excellent!” The soup arrives in a giant bowl; along side it is a small plate with sprouts, jalapenos, basil (Thai) and a chunk of lime. I immediately held the bowl up to my nose and took a big deep breath, awesome! I dump the garnishes all in and squeeze every drop of juice out of that lime and get to mixing it all together. The first bite is heavenly; piping hot broth and noodles with tastes of salty, sour, and spicy, it really had it all. I admit that the tendon and tripe will not be enjoyable to all diners. I say that is their loss and our gain! I probably should have apologized to the other diners eating at this time. I was making tons of awkward noises; slurps, grunts and groans. I know I smacked down on the table approvingly more than once. I did not leave a single drop of noodle or broth in that bowl. They do serve Hoison and srirachi hot sauce for additional seasoning; but on my maiden trip I wanted to taste it as is. This was one of the best lunches I have ever had. I can’t wait till a time D and I can both dine here.
There are times that I pump up a restaurant in my head and it has absolutely no chance of living up to my own hype. I am extremely happy that Pho Van met and exceeded all of my hopes and expectations.
Again, if you have a place you want us to know about, shoot us a message on Facebook. We are constantly hunting for restaurants we haven’t heard of or just haven’t eaten at yet.
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2120 Penn Avenue
Pgh, PA 15222
Open 7 days a week:
Friday & Saturday: 11am-10pm