Thursday, January 26, 2006

Pho Vietnam

Pho Vietnam
1411 Poplar Avenue

“There’s a new Vietnamese place on Poplar near Cleveland,” Warren informed me one day.

“Well, let’s take the monkeys!” I said. (Satchel, age 3, and Jiro, age 1.)

We decided to go on a Friday night and as usual, my sister and her two monkeys (Branch, age 9, and Sutton, age 6) joined us.

The monkeys seemed pretty hungry when we picked them up, which is always good when attempting a new restaurant. (They are much more likely to sit still when they are actually interested in eating.) Nevertheless, I sweetened the pot, “I have a lollipop in my purse for monkeys who stay in their chairs and make happy plates.” Their ears perked up and their mouths puckered.

Past visits to Vietnamese restaurants, namely Pho Saigon and Pho Pasteur, usually ended up with the monkeys climbing the walls.

“What should we order them?” I asked Warren as we were driving. Their tastes have matured a bit since we last tried Vietnamese, but you never know.

“Noodles,” he said simply.

“Noodles it is,” I said.

When we walked in the restaurant, I was surprised, but happy, to see that it was pretty much empty. (It was only 6:00, which is early by most people’s standards.) I left Warren and Tracey to get the kids settled while I went to the restroom.

It wasn’t long before all of the monkeys joined me. The bathrooms were sparkling clean, which is always a bonus, and once everyone did what they needed to do and washed their hands, they settled into their chairs without much fuss. “Have you ever been here before?” my nephew inquired.

“Nope,” I said.

“Are you going to review it for your blog?” he asked excitedly. (My mom had filled him in on my secret identity as a restaurant reviewer.)

“I might,” I said.

“Oh goodie,” he said, clearly excited to be a part of such a potentially auspicious event.

Our waitress came right over and started taking orders. “What’s good for kids?” I asked, just in case they had some special dish I didn’t know about. I was worried about losing control of the monkeys and didn’t want to take the time to read through the vast selection of pho, lo mein, chow mein, vermicelli, rice, fried rice, and vegetarian dishes listed on the menu in Vietnamese (with English explanations).

“Broccoli and chicken is popular, rice, and noodle soup with chicken,” she replied. “Oh and eggrolls.”

My sister ordered the broccoli and rice for her daughter, we got rice for Jiro, noodle soup for Satchel, and eggrolls for everyone. My nephew confidently ordered himself a meatball soup in Vietnamese and then winked at me.

I got my usual vermicelli bowl topped with pork BBQ, shrimp, and eggrolls (aka Bun Tom Thit Nuong Cha Gio). Warren got his usual which is the same as mine, minus the shrimp and eggrolls.

I got a little déjà vu. “Is this the same place as Pho Pasteur?” I asked the waitress.

“Yes,” she said. “The Vietnamese grocery store next door to us expanded so we had to move…and change our name.”

“Oh that’s interesting,” I said. I had thought that might be the case. I didn’t want to pry about the name. I assumed the grocery store kept the name. I looked at Warren and could see her words reverberating in his brains The Vietnamese grocery store next door to us expanded.

“Let’s go check out the grocery store tomorrow,” he said.

Getting back to business, our very pregnant Tracey ordered something I had never tried, vermicelli with spicy beef and lemon grass (aka Bun Bo Xao Xa Ot or “#82”). Before I could properly quiz her about her decision, the food arrived. All of it. In less than five minutes!

Everyone seemed to enjoy their food. Even though my nephew claimed to love his meatball soup (he was obviously pushing me to write a good review), I didn’t actually see him eat very much of it. My niece ate a good bit of her chicken and broccoli. Satchel’s soup was big enough to feed 10 children, so he ate as much as he could. Jiro gobbled down the rice like it was the best rice he ever had and even ate some of the eggrolls. Warren and I enjoyed our usual dishes, as usual. Our servings were quite generous—we could have easily shared with the monkeys and not ordered them anything.

I looked over to see how Tracey was enjoying her dish. She was sweating and drinking a lot of water. “It’s good,” she said between sips, “and SPICY.”

“Let me try,” I said. She sent her bowl around and I took a bite. It was definitely spicy, but very yummy.

By this time the monkeys had earned their lollipops and were happily sucking while Tracey continued to work on her spicy noodles.

“I can’t eat it all,” she finally announced.

“I’ll take it home,” I said greedily, looking forward to a nice lunch on Saturday.

As I paid the bill, Warren entertained the monkeys by the fish tank. They were completely enthralled for at least fifteen minutes.

“We could have had dessert,” I told Tracey.

We all left full and happy and without incident. I haven’t taken the monkeys back for a round two, but the increasingly pregnant Tracey and I have been twice since then. Both times we shared an order of eggrolls ($3.00) and #82 ($6.00)--she is counting on #82 to get #3 out of her belly. (For dinner, #82 is the perfect size. For lunch, we had enough for Tracey to take some home to her husband.)

In addition to great service, clean bathrooms, good prices, and yummy food, Pho Vietnam also has delicious fruit and coffee drinks. Tracey had the brilliant idea of ordering a pineapple shake($2.75) to help with heat and her high potential for heartburn.

I highly recommend Pho Vietnam, for lunch or dinner, with or without your monkeys. (I'll get back to you on whether I recommend it for putting very pregnant ladies in labor.)

Pho Vietnam Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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