The first time I went to Pho 7, I was unimpressed. Like some other bloggers in town, our initial instinct was to get a bowl of pho. I know, crazy, right? And the link above sums up our experience: It wasn’t the worst I’ve had in my life, but it was pretty unremarkable, with weakly flavored broth and not enough condiments and sides. But lately, I’ve found myself going through a change of heart. Increasingly, Pho 7 is one of my favorite local lunch places. It’s close to campus, and actually quite good once you observe this basic rule:
Rule #1: Do Not Get Pho at Pho 7.
What should you order instead? Lots of stuff. Like the Grilled Pork Bahn Mi, for instance, which rocks.
Still with me, and ready to give Pho 7 a chance to win back your affections? Great, let’s carry on.
So, first, let’s get the other downsides out of the way. Pho 7′s location is uninspiring. The service can be spotty, especially at lunchtime, although lately it has been improving. And the interior is just a slight step up from a fast food joint, with an always-on TV that seems stuck on a channel involving some sort of never-ending Vietnamese version of American Idol.
But you know what? I can deal with all of that. First, take another look at that Bahn Mi above. That is a damn good sandwich. It mixes all the right flavors in just the right way: The pork is tangy with just the right amount of fat, the liver pate adds a rich umami edge, the jalapenos give it a respectable kick, and the various pickled veggies add crunch and salt. All of this good stuff comes tucked inside a beautiful baguette, with a great balance of crust and chewiness. Liberally topped with a combo of Sriracha and hoisin sauce, it is spicy, sweet, salty, and savory all at once.
Honestly, I like the Bahn Mi so much that I rarely order any of Pho 7′s other options anymore. But if you want to explore other sections of the menu, Sarah has your back. She is a big fan of their rice bowls.
This one, for instance, mixes that wonderful grilled pork with a fried egg and veggies. You can top it with the same sauce combo I use for my sandwiches, or else with the fish sauce that comes as a side. Either way, you should be a pretty happy camper.
Sarah and I have a standing disagreement about their spring rolls. She likes them, but I do not.
I think it comes down to a philosophical difference regarding the purpose of a spring roll. I focus more on their internal crispness and flavor, while she views them primarily as a vehicle for sauces. Pho 7′s offering is probably very good for the latter purpose, with a small portion of tasty meat swaddled in a rice wrapper along with lots of noodles and iceberg lettuce. Personally, I’d rather save my appetite for the sandwich.