Back in the day when the word ‘pho’ elicited the response ‘huh?’, the best pho in Atlanta was found in Pho Hoa. The restaurant is in Asian Square along Buford Highway, just a little ways south of the bridal boutique. The square itself is dominated by 99 Ranch Market, which was an important place back in the day before the International Markets and Super H began to own the ethnic food scene.

I came here more to see if the old restaurant had changed, perhaps had learned some new tricks. And no, it doesn’t seem to have changed much at all. The seating inside are long rows of tables. Every table has a selection of spicy sauces, chopsticks, and spoons within reach. The clientele is largely Asian. Walls are mirrored, and there was one loud TV playing behind me. There was one person waiting tables, a nice older lady.

Although I was seated quickly, it took a while before I was asked what I wanted. This is a restaurant whose service has never been snappy. If you want attentive service, What the Pho? is a better choice. I ended up ordering a summer roll, their #5 pho, and a soursop smoothie.

Pho, in this restaurant, are organized in terms of how ‘adventurous’ they are. In more explicit terms, fattier meats, cuts with more cartilage, things like tripe appear in the dish as you proceed from simple phos to adventuresome products. In this respect it’s no different from the sushi restaurants who label flying fish roe sushis and eel sushis as ‘challenging’. The pho can be purchased in small, medium and large bowls. Medium bowls are about $5.95 and large bowls are $6.50 or so.

The summer rolls weren’t bad, shrimp and vegetables visible inside a translucent wrapper. The pho was actually quite good. The broth was dark, and the meat was tender, falling apart tender, which I didn’t expect. The collection of mints, sprouts, and slices of pepper was a little smaller than I’m used to, but to be fair, I’m used to eating pho with a party, not alone. The soursop smoothie was really good, hints of the fruit’s flavor shining through.

Verdict:  Recommended. Good inexpensive food. Service is a bit slow. Pho Hoa is perhaps still the best place in town for a pho beginner.

Pho Hoa
5150 Buford Highway,
Doraville GA, 30340-1153
(770) 455-8729

Pho Hoa on Urbanspoon

Notes: The New York Times has been following pho for ages, from this article (seen in abstract) about the migration of pho from North to South, to this article, an eater’s guide to the phos of North and South Vietnam. The latter is my favorite pho article of all time. One thing that did surprise me while researching this article is that Pho Hoa is a chain. There are locations of this chain on the Embarcadero in San Francisco, and others in six other countries.