Chicago’s Best Pho, #6 – #10

Pho aromatics

We continue our big reveal this week from the city’s most thorough #ChicagoPhoCrawl. Researched, analyzed and put together between my friend Paul Nguyen and myself, we’ve visited all of the primary pho operations in the city, and have come up with our ranking for each one using a consistent and statistical based methodology.  On Tuesday, we presented our case, laying out our approach and our methodology with a sidebar on how the numbers played a role. Yesterday, we released our bottom tier – #12 – #31. Today, we break into the bottom half of the top 10, which includes one tie for 10th place.

Tomorrow we reveal our Top 5 Pho in Chicago, and at 11:50 a.m., I’ll show you my Top 3 on ABC 7, as we head into their kitchens to see how they actually assemble their fantastic bowls, and in some cases, see the aromatics they use to flavor their broths. At 12 p.m. tomorrow Paul and I will be on Facebook Live, explaining our Top 10 and answering your questions.

#10 (tie)
CoCo Vietnamese Sandwiches & Pho
1613 W. Lawrence Ave.; 773-516-4760
Price: $9.95
Condiments: bean sprouts, lime, Thai basil, jalapeño

cocoOverall, a balanced aroma but nothing that blows you away. Bowl is presented well, lots of black pepper specks (maybe too much) but excellent temperature. The noodle-broth ratio was o.k. but needed a bit more meat as well as variety; thought the bowl might be a tad too tall/narrow. We think there could have been a bit more beefy flavor to broth; the meatballs were actually just average but the brisket was very good.

 

#10 (tie)
The Noodle Vietnamese Cuisine
2336 S. Wentworth Ave.; 312-674-1168
Price: $6.39 and $7.69 (+ $1 for meatballs)
Condiments: bean sprouts, Thai basil, lime, jalapeño

the-noodleThe Pho Dac Biet in this case is #44 on the menu (The Adventurer’s Choice) with tender, delicious brisket, lots of flank, tendon and tripe. Not sure the chewy meatball was worth the extra buck. The broth has a very beefy aroma, it’s served at an optimal temperature and contains plenty of fat droplets across the surface (possibly a little too fatty). We wish the flavor yielded a few more aromatics, but the price can’t be beat and if you go at lunchtime, be prepared to wait for a table, as the secret is apparently already out. We did a Facebook Live broadcast from here, if you’re interested:

 

#9
Miss Saigon
1129 W. Argyle St.; 773-681-5700
Price:$9.75
Condiments: bean sprouts, culantro, jalapeño, Thai basil, lime

miss-saigonThere’s definitely a more modern feel to this restaurant; we liked the updated décor. Overall, it’s got a balanced aroma and the presentation is on par, although it could have been hotter. We think there could be a little more meat, because what there was turned out to be delicious: fantastic meatballs, thinly-sliced eye of round and just fatty-enough brisket.

 

#8
Uptown Pho
1010 W. Argyle St.; 773-878-8820
Price: $8.95 and $10.95
Condiments: Thai basil, bean sprouts, jalapeño, lime

uptown-phoAnother new, clean and modern space along Argyle, Uptown delivered a steaming bowl to the table, generously studded with scallions and cilantro. A big meatball was hacked into three pieces, and I felt, at least, that their brisket was among the best I had tasted – tender, juicy, delicious. The broth is gentle – it doesn’t have a hugely aromatic, intense flavor, but almost a more simple, beef soup-like quality. This is cold weather comfort.

 

#7
Le’s Pho
4925 N. Broadway; 773-784-8723
Price: $8.25 and $9.25
Condiments: Thai basil, jalapeño, bean sprouts (very fresh), lime

les-phoDespite the fact this bowl was missing meatballs and seemed a tad light on the scallions, it had a pleasing, balanced aroma served at a nice temperature. The eye of round could have been sliced a little thinner, but that’s minor. The brisket was just a bit too fatty for us, making it harder to chew. The broth seemed just ever-so-slightly sweet with just the right note of beefiness. It’s a simple broth but clearly, boiled for several hours to extract a lot of flavor from those beef bones. One issue we had: the server forgot our order, but we can’t really count that against the kitchen.

 

#6
LD Pho
4722 N. Kedzie Ave.; 773-961-8551
Price: $9 and $10
Condiments: Thai basil, bean sprouts, jalapeño, lime

ld-phoWe had heard the chef from LC Pho on Lawrence had moved over to open up LD on Kedzie, so we were extra curious, since our experience at LC wasn’t as great. I thought the soup was excellent. Covered with an adequate amount of onions and scallions, the beef quality is outstanding. Brisket is tender, eye of round is thinly sliced, still a rosy hue even after the broth is added and the hunks of tripe are just as soft as the forgiving noodles below. Biggest issue? You guessed it. Not hot enough. I mentioned this to the cook/server as I paid my bill, and he was surprised, saying they usually try to serve it hot. Had my bowl been really steaming, it would have likely pushed this into the top 5.

2 Comments

  1. Jon

    January 5, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Great project Steve! Vietnamese cuisine has so much variety, and Pho is some of the best stuff for winter weather. Here’s to hoping that Pho Loan made your top five!! It’s a great spot, and since I don’t see it on 6-31, I can only imagine that it’s one of your favorites (because it would be horrible to overlook). :)

    • Vitaly

      January 5, 2017 at 6:28 pm

      Nice list, and I’m also hoping Pho Loan is in the top, along with New Asia (though what’s really good there is the Pho Ga.)

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