I have an allegiance to mom and pop restaurants versus chains, but I have to say Pho Hoa feels like the center of the universe for downtown Renton. You'll see virtually every age and ethnicity bowing their heads over a steaming bowl of soup here on any given day. And when I awoke to March snow, I knew where I was headed for lunch.
Working from home is pretty solitary, so I often choose to get a break from leftovers in the fridge at Pho Hoa. It's usually full of diners or else there is "The View" airing on the soundless television, as well as Warm 101 playing Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror". All part of the experience, albeit not a gourmet one. With a bowl of comfort food in front of me, and some reading material, all is right in the world again.
Does Pho Hoa have the best pho in town? Nope. The cheapest? Nope. What keeps me coming back is the sense of community from all that gather there for sustenance. Unlike the advent of modern Vietnamese restaurants in the Pacific Northwest such as Tamarind Tree or Renton's own Papaya Magic, Pho Hoa is a Vietnamese icon.
Service is pretty utilitarian. The servers barely acknowledge your existence beyond a few quick questions, and I usually have to signal for a refill of water which bugs me. Food is served expediently. The one fixture is a string bean in cords, with arching Cruella Deville blue eyebrows, and a KD-Langish pompadour.
My order rarely varies from To Nho, or a Regular sized bowl of pho which is $6.45. My taste lies embarrassingly in the Beginners Section with Pho Tai, Bo Vien, meaning thinly sliced eye round beef and meatball soup. For the Adventurer's Choice, you can get a bowl filled with steak, brisket, tendon, and tripe aka Pho dac biet ("special combo" also $6.45).Vegetarians & non-red meat eaters have options as well.
If not in the mood for soup, there's more to choose from, like a Vermicelli Bowl, called Bun and pronounced 'boon'. I hope, if nothing else, reading my weekly column might teach you how to order good food well, and what to avoid.
I chose to take home an order of Bún Gà Nướng Chả Giò, grilled chicken and spring roll ($7.50) served over thin rice noodles with carrot coins, bean sprouts, cucumber spears, lettuce, basil and Nuoc Cham, aka Vietnamese 'Special Sauce'. The chicken was marinated and tender with a pleasant smokiness, the spring roll is sizeable and cut into four pieces. A plethora of chopped fresh vegetables on the periphery gave me a taste of spring--mix together and season with Nuoc Cham and Tuong Ot Toi (Vietnamese chili sauce) to your liking.
Renton's Pho Hoa also has an attached frozen non-fat yogurt bar, named Yoggi. You can choose between pomegranate and plain or swirl, and supplement your bowl with over twenty-two toppings. It's one stop family dining...
Guilty as charged.
801 South 3rd Street
Renton, WA 98057-2737
Mon-Sun 9 am - 12 am