ginger and salt

lunch for one: pho bac.

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In Seattle, pho (the Vietnamese noodle soup) is almost as ubiquitous as coffee.  I swear it’s almost every day that another pho restaurant pops up in this town, and more often than not, it’s one with a cheeky name such as ‘What the Pho’, ‘I Love Pho’, and most recently, ‘Phobulous’ (a bit of a stretch, if you ask me).

Many of these restaurants feature a variety of dishes on their menus ranging from pho to meat and rice dishes to vermicelli bowls to bahn mis. However, when I’m craving the real deal on a blustery fall day, there is really only one option for me.

The red boat that is Pho Bac sits at the intersection of Boren, Rainier, and Jackson and has become a bit of a landmark in the International District.  Adorned with Christmas lights and fishing nets year-round, this neighborhood gem arguably makes the best pho in the city (and it’s ALL they make).

I have a go-to order basically every time: small pho tai with rare beef (go with a large if you dare) and a Mexican Coke.  The pho arrives almost instantaneously without fail and I adorn mine with fresh Asian basil, bean sprouts, lime, jalapeno, and a healthy dose of Sriracha.  The beef broth is perfect and the folks at Pho Bac have nailed the ratio of meat to noodles.

As I slurp my soup in solo-mode, I am able to glance around and acknowledge how this hole-in-the-wall (or boat-in-the-wall, rather?) is so quintessentially Seattle. Pho Bac is in power-lunch mode and I am surrounded by conversations taking place in several different languages, businessmen in suits, Capitol Hill hipsters, and of course, the token guy wearing Tevas in mid-October.

Yes, there are kitchy fake flowers everywhere. Yes, you are using plastic chopsticks and spoons from a community station at your table that may or may not have been washed that day. But Pho Bac knows their pho and when you can get in and out for less than ten bucks, it’s pretty hard to beat.

Pho Bac, 1314 South Jackson, Seattle, WA, 206.323.4337 (No vegetarian dishes, sorry).

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9 comments

  1. T! I’m always looking for a new Pho restaurant since it’s my go-to meal when I’m under the weather, so thanks for sharing! However, I agree, hitting the meat:noodle ratio is crucial for a delicious bowl of pho, and I haven’t found that at Than Brothers or Pho Big Bowl on Market, which usually place an ungodly amount of rice noodles in their bowls. Plus there’s really nothing special about either of these places. Let’s just say there’s no boats involved. Have you tried either of these? I literally piece every sprig of basil off the branch they give with the meal, so I hope their branches are fruitful! Can’t wait to try Pho Bac!-Con

  2. Con — I agree with you completely…perhaps pho is the chicken noodle soup of the PNW. Had a very scratchy throat yesterday so decided it was the only reasonable choice. I haven’t tried either of the ones you mentioned, but I do like Monkey Bridge on Market if you’re looking for a good neighborhood option. Nothing worse than a mass of congealed rice noodles in your pho. Thanks for reading!

  3. Carly

    Tay, this is amazing!! Cait passed your blog info to me, and I am so excited that she did! You are definitely our foodie friend and my source for finding good places to eat in Seattle, so I cannot wait to follow all your adventures. Sounds like Pho Bac is my next place! Keep them coming, I’ll be anxiously waiting 🙂

  4. Mary

    Miss Tay! What a fabulous blog!! love the photos. I have driven by this red boat countless times and never dreamed of stopping. Next time I definitely will! Pho tasetes so good, especially on rainy days (that could be pretty often now!) THANK YOU and good luck on your wonderful new venture. I will be checking it often.

  5. Lauren

    took your advice and tried this place last week when we were craving pho. so delicious! i too drive by this boat all the time so was excited to finally go inside for some christmas cheer and delicious vietnamese soup! love your blog and am anxious to try all the places that you suggest. thanks, tay!

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