Pho Bac Sup Shop is one of four Pho Bac restaurants in Seattle—located across the parking lot from one of its other locations. But the business brand is strong: come here for a beautiful symphony of broth in your noodle-filled bowl.
In my humble opinion, very few things are better than noods. And when dished up with piping hot broth on a frigid rainy day in Seattle? Pho-gettaboutit. (I promise I won’t do that again.)
But on the spitty-rain day I joined a colleague for a working lunch in International District, I was thankful to end up at Pho Bac Sup Shop—a Vietnamese restaurant so sure of itself, it opened a new location this past winter in the same parking lot as one of their three other spots. Let the bathing in broth begin.
Money Score: Excellent
Nothing on this menu exceeds $18, and the largest bowl of pho you can get is only $11. And it has to be a behemoth of brothy goodness because the small portion (just $1 less) served in a massive steel bowl is enough to satiate your noodle needs and then some. You can easily get too meals out of it if you can stop yourself from stuffing noodles in your face in time.
Consciousness Score: Good
On one side of the restaurant is a wall with shelves of Vita Uva natural wines. Now you might be thinking, what’s wine doing in a Vietnamese restaurant? To which I’ll say to you, stop being so narrow-minded, you bully (just kidding). But those are precisely the kinds of thoughts owner Suzi An is hoping to challenge: perceptions of wine alongside Asian cuisines. Supposedly the pho I chose pairs nicely with a light red (now I know why I was drawn to that dish). I don’t know about you, but anyone supporting the mission to bring more wine to more of my meals is doing the Lord’s work. Challenging unorthodox views is a consciousness win in my book.
And it’s minimal-intervention wine (#wineunplugged) made from organic grapes, fermented with its indigenous yeast, and bottled with little-to-no sulfites. Is it better for you than regular wine? From extensive Google research, it looks like sometimes and not really. There are no additives or sulfites, but there is no actual proof that wine sulfites are bad for you. But I think this counts as drinking clean?
All the Feels Score: Good
I’m torn with this one. The ambiance is simply delightful. I don’t use that phrase ever, but with high ceilings and tall windows from floor to ceiling, natural light pours into the open space with clean white walls, and consequently lifted any heaviness I was feeling from those grey skies outside. And it’s accented with pops of color throughout—a bright yellow street cart podium up front; a neon blue, yellow and pink sign that reads Phocific Northwest (give me puns or give me death, to be honest); pink flowers across the wall above shelves displaying sauces; and another purple neon sign in the wine display.
But the service was a bit abrupt and sparse. When we were picking out our dishes, our waiter seemed really impatient with our questions and agreed to bring a decaf coffee (for my lunch date, I would never betray caffeine like that) and then returned with a regular coffee confused about our confusion. We also ordered a coconut juice that arrived so far after the fact that we’d forgotten requesting it in the first place (this sent us into a laughing fit more than anything else—probably the good vibes of the spot). But our food showed up quick, and at prices we’re paying, and with a sign that says “Slay All Day, Then Rosé” in my periphery, I just can’t be that mad about magically appearing-but-delayed fruit juice.
cà phê latte
The Viet coffee with steamed soy milk was a silky sweet start to the meal (sweeter than a traditional latte) that warmed my body up while simultaneously giving me the energy boost I needed. Please note: We’re almost positive there is not a non-caffeinated option, but our server was so flustered by our inquiry (I share the distaste of decaf) that we all gave up and moved on.
Gỏi cuốn (Prawn Brown Rice Paper Rolls)
It’s a great starter that is delivered to your table as two long fresh prawn spring rolls, but if you’ve got a party of four, and you don’t want to fill up (you don’t), split into four, and enjoy with a creamy peanut dipping sauce.
Pho Bo (Beef Pho)
Broth will make or break your pho, as you want an aromatic broth packed with savory rich flavor that makes you forget about the noodles for a moment or two. And this broth makes other restaurants’ broths feel cheap and irrelevant…it’s the broth with a six-pack and well-defined arms. Oh, and the bowl comes loaded with your selection of beef (steak, brisket, tripe and tendons) and lots and lots of noods. Feel free to garnish yourself with mint, jalapeno, and bean sprouts.
Pho Tron (Beef and Prawn Dipping Dry Pho)
Maybe you can tell from above, but I love broth. So, why did I order the dry pho? I wanted a new experience and it comes with a side of seductive broth that you can shove your noodles in before you shovel the dripping mess into your mouth. And with wide flat tumeric noodles, cilantro, shallots and peanuts (along with your choice of protein), to me, it’s broth pho’s funky sister who is a liberal arts major and thrifts all of her belongings. Which means, I love it in a different way than I love traditional pho, and this dish will certainly keep me intrigued for a while (but I’ll always go back to broth).