Where to Find the Best Pho in NOLA
When the weather dips below 75°, many think “gumbo weather.” While that’s definitely on my list, my first bowl of comfort of the season tends to be pho. For those unfamiliar, pho is a popular Vietnamese soup consisting of bone broth, rice noodles, herbs and meat (most popular are beef or chicken). To me, it’s a warm hug in a bowl. Often mispronounced as ‘foe,’ pho should be pronounced ‘fuh’ (I asked my Vietnamese friends on this one).
When this topic was suggested amongst our contributors, I was excited to slurp it up <pun intended>. In the cooler months, I typically eat pho weekly, so the opportunity to eat MORE pho and write about it was a no brainer.
If you haven’t tried this popular Vietnamese dish, New Orleans is the place to do it. We have a large Vietnamese population here, mostly on the Westbank and in New Orleans East. When they began to arrive in 1975, there was a tight housing market, so they migrated outside of the city center. This is why some of the best Vietnamese food you’ll find requires a short drive. I know this is something most New Orleanians prefer not to do, but those who know good pho will make the pilgrimage. I love how the broth differs from place to place, much like how every good Cajun has their own take on gumbo. Pho broth takes eight hours to make, and you can taste the love that went into it. When you order it, you’ll receive a giant bowl of fragrant broth, noodles and meat. On the side, generous helpings of herbs, lime, sprouts, jalapenos and various sauces. Add a little extra of the spicy sriracha sauce, and you have the cure for the common cold. If you order the pho tai, the beef is served rare and cooks in the hot broth once delivered to your table.
A top pick by chefs
Pho Tau Bay, the once quaint Gretna eatery (now located at 1565 Tulane Avenue) has been visited by the likes of Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern. Emeril named their pho ga the best chicken soup he ever ate. The spring rolls are also worth mention; order them as an appetizer.
Battle of the bowls
My love affair with pho initially started at Pho Bang, which has locations in New Orleans East, Kenner, Metairie, Harvey, and Gretna. The staff speaks minimal English, but for only $11, you can get a regular bowl (which is quite large) with generous amounts of herbs and sprouts. Order pho ga or pho tai and you can’t go wrong.
My usual go-to spot is Tan Dinh in Gretna, and you’ll always find the owner Quoc Trieu working the restaurant his family started in 1996. Their egg rolls would truly be part of the last meal of my life. There’s something unique about them (the rice paper, the filling, you name it) and served alongside a bowl of pho or short rib vermicelli, I’d die a happy woman. Also, don’t sleep on the cafe sua da (Vietnamese coffee + condensed milk).
Another favorite of our team is Pho Orchid in Metairie. In addition to an extensive menu, they also offer a wide variety of Vietnamese beverages, including boba tea.
When February rolls around, gather the family to celebrate Lunar New Year at Tết Festival. This is a free festival with tons of Vietnamese food, live music and traditional performances. Read more about Erica’s family tradition with the festival.
A Mid City spin on pho
The most unique pho experience comes courtesy of MOPHO. Chef Michael Gulotta combines Louisiana flavors with those of Southeast Asia, and it does not disappoint. MOPHO has landed on ‘best of’ lists from publications like The Times-Picayune, Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appetit, and Eater. I love to visit on a Wednesday for the pork belly pho special, and I always order the crispy chicken wings. I may have even eaten these in the car by myself.