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Post from jack | around
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Pho 45 VietnameseShabby strip center establishments carry a lot of cachet when it comes to Vietnamese restaurants, usually because the mom and pop proprietors are running the places themselves, which in turn is the hallmark of authenticity. Pho 45 however is housed in an updated center on 249, a little known concatenation of Vietnamese restaurants. The interior is clean and brightly lit, but you can still see the family ties as the proprietors bustle about the busy dining room.

The Vietnamese places along 249 have settled into niche roles for me. When I’m trying to keep things relatively healthy, aside from a possibly high sodium content, I generally go for chicken pho at Pho Bien Hoa down the road. But when I’m in the mood to savor the rich, dark broth of a beef pho, I head to Pho 45. The lighter chicken pho is a solid, everyday choice even in the summer months, or as a curative when you’re under the weather, like mom’s chicken soup. But beef pho with its darker broth always suggests to me the fall months, and is perfect for those cold snaps as Houston enters its brief winter. Along with the characteristic star anise, the other spices used are redolent of the hyperborean season, and are also often used in the best winter beers: clove, ginger, cardamom, even cinnamon. On a cold and blustery day, there’s nothing quite like hovering over a hot bowl of pho. Pro tip: order your steak on the side, adding it to the soup yourself, lest the last pieces get overcooked in the bowl by the time you get to them.

Pho TaiThe other niche reason I head to Pho 45 is the banh mi. There used to be an alternative across the street with great Vietnamese sandwiches, but they have long since closed. The sandwiches at Pho 45 aren’t strictly orthodox in that they don’t use the traditional South Vietnamese-style homemade mayonnaise, but rather a sort of barbecue sauce that is glazed on the chargrilled pork, or thit nuong. This arguably makes it a bit healthier than your average banh mi, and the whole sandwich is brightened with the fresh cilantro, cucumber, and jalapeño, along with the pickled carrot. It isn’t indicated on the menu like it is at places like Pho Binh, but I’m sure you can add a fried egg on top of your banh mi, since you have that option with the rice, or com dishes. Although the portions of chargrilled pork stuffed into the sandwich seem to have dwindled a bit in recent visits, the soft baguette with the crispy exterior never disappoints. Nor does the service. Asian restaurants are oft decried for their quick, bordering on curt service, but Pho 45 is small enough that the staff is seldom overwhelmed, and I’m always met with smiling faces along with prompt attention.

While pho options abound in the gauntlet of Vietnamese restaurants along 249, banh mi is harder to find. Until a worthy competitor crops up, Pho 45 is my spot for the sandwich, along with that savory beef pho – a fine winter warmer.


Post from jack | around
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