Minneapolis Pho
May 16, 2010 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Minneapolis pho, and some general pho meat questions.

I'll be visiting Minneapolis in August and I'd like to go for pho. What's the best pho in the area? I've never had it before and I'm interested in the whole put it together myself experience like this recent thread. Extra bean sprouts please!

Also... lean beef, brisket, fat brisket, flank, skirt flank, tendon, tripe... how do I choose? Is there a description of the tastes and textures of all these? I've never eaten much steak.
posted by IndigoRain to Food & Drink (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
There are two main Vietnamese neighborhoods in the cities: one in Minneapolis around Nicollet Ave & Lake St, and one in St Paul around University Ave & Dale St.

My favorite pho in Minneapolis is Jasmine Deli, which is a hole-in-the-wall cash-only kind of place with weird hours. They also have a fancier spinoff called Jasmine 26 which I've never been to. Quang is down the street and serves probably 500 people a night at big communal tables, and is also excellent.

In St Paul, you can go to Saigon, which is within walking distance of the St Paul Cathedral and the state capitol. I know they have some of the more exotic phos, like tripe and brisket. I'd skip Mai Village, which is marketed at food tourists but isn't that great.

I can't leave out Bona which is over by the state university. My favorite dish there is egg noodle soup with duck. It's not pho, but it's really excellent.

You can't make me pick only one!
posted by miyabo at 7:58 PM on May 16, 2010

2nding the one on University and Dale (actually University and Arundel)
posted by Drainage! at 8:26 PM on May 16, 2010

Jasmine Deli is so good.* It's one of the things I miss the most about living in Minneapolis! I'm less excited about Jasmine 26. There's another great Viet place on Nicollet whose name is escaping me - if you head south on Nicollet until it dead ends after 29th, it's on your left. Really good pho.

If you want a nice sit-down experience, you can check out Ngon, at University and Avon in St Paul. It's got a nice atmosphere and good pho (I expected it to be inauthentic, but it's very good), although of course it's more expensive. Cali's Vietnamese in Northeast Minneapolis is another good one, sort of off the beaten path.

You kind of can't really go wrong, especially with recommendations. Minneapolis Vietnamese food is at a really high standard - they're a reason Tony Bourdain said it was the best place in the US for it! FWIW, I live in Seattle now, another city known for its Vietnamese food, and have been pretty disappointed with the quality of the pho here - I got completely spoiled by Mpls.

As for the meats - I must admit I usually go with the flank steak, and maybe some tendon if I'm in the mood. Don't worry about it being super beefy - you get a lot more noodles and broth than anything else. Brief descriptions of the kinds of meat I've had in pho:

Flank: this is super-thin slices of raw, lean steak that cook through almost instantly in the broth. Done right, they are super yummy and tender, basically melting in your mouth (mmmm)

Brisket: slow-cooked roast-type meat, tends to be fatty.

Meatballs: these tend to be very small and are a must-try, though not necessarily my favorite (they can be a bit rubbery).

Tendon: What it sounds like! Incidentally, when I was in Laos, this was often the only "meat" you'd get in your pho.

Tripe: tripe is just plain weird - it's got sort of a rubbery texture and looks like something that came out of the ocean. But it gives your pho that "authentic" vibe.

*I like their bun, too, which is another great put-it-together Vietnamese dish (but despite the name, it is not a bun in the American sense - it's a kind of salad of cold rice noodles, grilled meat, veggies, and all the stuff you put in pho)
posted by lunasol at 8:42 PM on May 16, 2010

I don't like tripe, but I order my pho with nearly everything else. If there's a "#1" combo that has a lot of different meats, get that. Some people are freaked out by the tendon, but I frickin love it.
posted by KathrynT at 9:06 PM on May 16, 2010

I'm not much of a beef eater, so I usually get pho ga (chicken), though one of my local places makes a pho 'just noodles' - no meat, your choice of chicken or beef broth - and I like that too.
posted by candyland at 9:41 PM on May 16, 2010

Trieu Chau in St. Paul has some of the best pho in town to my palate (the photo is geotagged). They also have banh mi which aren't on the menu, if you're after a sandwich.

United Noodles in Minneapolis has about a half-dozen different mixes of "pho spice" to add to plain beef stock if you're interested in making your own.
posted by DaveP at 4:47 AM on May 17, 2010

I've had a couple orders at a couple places--
For a noob, and I can't type vietnamese, I'd recommend Pho Dac Biet as your order. (And I've never been to Minneapolis, but I've been assured that if you walk into any Pho joint in the world and order Pho Dac Biet, you'll get the same thing.)

It's basically everything in one bowl. My food tastes lean towards the adventurous, BUT it's a great way to get a smackrel of everything so the next time you know better what you want.

I want to encourage you to try to tendon and tripe. The tripe doesn't have much flavor, but it's pretty (all flowery cut) and it adds good texture to the noodles. The tendon---well, it's weird. It's got a lot of gelatin (duh) and although it's a bit slimy (depending on how thickly it's cut), it has great flavor. Actually, the texture might be described as soft oysters. BUT--like I said, the flavor is awesome.

Of course, I'm the kind of guy who enjoys eating the seared fat from the edges of my steak, too.

Textures are weird for me. Sometimes something will squick me out the first time and then I'll long for it. This has happened to me with salmon roe nigiri, and now with beef tendon pho.
posted by TomMelee at 5:41 AM on May 17, 2010

My favorite places are Quang, Pho 79 and Pho Tau Bay (this is the place that lunasol couldn't remember the name of.) A lot of people like the Jasmine family of restaurants because they are far more approachable, but for all in all soup quality, Quang is tops. If you're going out with someone who doesn't like pho, Pho Tau Bay had incredible noodle salads (Bun).

I'd recommend getting a pho that has some of everything. Pho Dac Biet is a great choice. Pick out a little of each kind of meat and see what you like. Nothing in there will make the whole soup taste any different. Tripe doesn't really taste like much, but has a really distinct texture. No really, I can't think of a thing to compare it to. Properly cooked, tendon is incredibly smooth and buttery. Rare beef is like you'd expect, I always like to have some in my pho. Vietnamese meatballs are very fine grained and not to be missed.

If you wanted to have a pho meetup when you come, toss a thread in MetaTalk and I am so totally in.
posted by advicepig at 7:15 AM on May 17, 2010

Ha, a pho Minneapolis meet up sounds lovely.
posted by jadepearl at 8:16 AM on May 17, 2010

In St Paul, I prefer Saigon. They also make great Vietnamese sandwiches for $2.25. I find the broth is lighter then most other places, but that is how I prefer it.
Ngon's broth was way too salty and oily for my taste.

In Minneapolis, Quang's is the way to go. I personally stay away from Jasmine Deli for pho, as they keep receiving health violations.
posted by mlo at 9:00 AM on May 17, 2010

Response by poster: Meetup sounds great. I'll post a thread much closer to when I'm leaving (August 27th). Thanks everyone, for your help!
posted by IndigoRain at 1:00 AM on May 19, 2010

Want to start thinking about that meetup? I can help plan...
posted by advicepig at 7:42 AM on August 13, 2010

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