Vietnamese restaurants in the Jacksonville area are not a common site. In fact, doing a Google search for Vietnamese restaurants in Jacksonville will only produce five locations dotted around the city. Taste that diversity! Anyhow, I thought this warranted spotlighting one of these locations: Bowl of Pho. Bowl of Pho is located on Old Baymeadows Road in the Publix Shopping Center and specializes in Pho - Vietnamese Beef and Noodle Soup.
For those readers who have not ever tried Vietnamese cuisine, please do. While not all things on the menu are going to appeal to you, with some willingness to try new things you'll find you might actually enjoy it. Bowl of Pho has a range of dishes including Fresh Spring Rolls, Grilled Pork and Rice, Vietnamese Fried Rice, and, of course, Pho. The prices at Bowl of Pho are phenomenal, and with an appetizer, two drinks (non-alcoholic), and a tip, a couple can get away with dinner for about $25-$30.
On your first visit to Bowl of Pho, you should really try the soup. It is of course the namesake dish, and for good reason. Your Bowl of Pho (pronounced fuh) starts out with a clear beef broth and thin rice noodles. Pho comes in Small, Large, and XLarge, and starts around $7. The broth, in my humble opinion, is the real star of the show here. It is a full, rich beef broth, with subtle sweet notes of cinnamon and star anise and slivers of white onion. When you add the basil and lime that accompany the soup, the flavor is outstanding. Also on the garnish plate are Bean Sprouts and extremely spicy Chili slices. I can easily say that the noodle soup without any meat would be fantastic for the simple, savory broth and bean sprouts, but most Pho comes with some type of meat. That being said, the meat selection is where things might get a little tricky for the Pho novice.
For the most part, Pho is served with different beef cuts or parts. There is Pho with Chicken, Shrimp, and meatballs, but Beef is what classic Pho is served with. Your Beef selection can range from raw to well done and can be Brisket, Tendon, Flank, Skirt, Tripe, and Beef Steak (or combinations with two and three different things). While the idea of Fatty Brisket or Tendon may not be your idea of delicious, they are full of flavor and are favorites in many other countries. Also, Beef fat adds a ton of flavor to the soup and the meat. However, if this is not your taste, perhaps start on a more conservative note with well done brisket. It is a nice way to ease your way into Pho without playing 20 questions of "What part of the cow did that come from?".
Overall, Bowl of Pho is a fun dining location that will allow you to take your taste buds on an adventure. If you're not sure what to order, don't be shy and ask what they recommend - the wait staff is there to help! So please visit Bowl of Pho and support our local ethnic restaurants. They are located at:
9902 Old Baymeadows Road
Jacksonville, FL 32256-8103