When it comes to bare-bones storefronts, Pho 888 might take the cake in a sea of under-decorated pho joints scattered around Argyle Street. However, if you're going to any of the Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai restaurants in the area for the ambiance, you're pretty much missing the point.
Pho 888 doesn't resemble the Vietnamese place that most know best – that would be Tank Noodle down the street – because you'll rarely see a crowd at 888, and there's no worrying about the stupidly confusing two-entry system they have set up over at Pho Xe Tang. Between the neon in the windows and the fluorescents overhead, it's doctor's-office bright in 888, but with the family-centric staff working and cooking for you, you'll forget all about it when a steaming, fragrant bowl of pho is placed before you.
Rich with flavor and more aggressively seasoned than Tank's pho, you'll find more star anise spicing up the broth, and you'll also find more beef, tripe or meatballs, depending on your order. Add-ons like bean sprouts and hot peppers come standard with your bowl, of course, and it all mixes together to make one of the best bowls on the block.
The rest of the menu is pretty extensive, with one of the standouts being the bahn xeo, or crispy scallion pancake. It's not a terribly refined dish compared with others, but with hearty amounts of chicken and shrimp inside, with the pancake bright and flavorful. The best part – a couple bowls with an appetizer will barely run you $20.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Karl Klockars