For the next 20 weeks, we'll be rounding up the runners-up to our 2011 Best of Houston® winners. In many categories, picking each year's winner is no easy task. We'll be spotlighting 20 of those categories, in which the winner had hefty competition from other Houston bars and restaurants.
5. Cafe TH
Cafe TH wasn't always known for its pho; it used to be a standard banh mi shop in Old Chinatown until owner Minh Nguyen took over and started revamping the menu. These days, it features an array of Vietnamese favorites, including an anise-perfumed pho rich with beef stock and even a vegan pho made with veggie broth and tofu.
4. Pho One
Robb Walsh named Pho One the best pho in Houston back in 2009, and the little family-run shop on Wilcrest near Westheimer is still going strong today. Owner Kim Oanh Vu comes from a famous pho family, who owned one of the most famous noodle shops in Saigon in the 1960s called Pho Tau Bay. Vu's father ran the equally successful chain of Pho Tau Bay restaurants in New Orleans before Katrina hit. When the family relocated to Houston afterward, they brought all of their pho-making skills with them to Pho One -- and Houston pho fans have been grateful ever since.
3. Pho Ga Dakao
Sometimes, you just want chicken soup. And sometimes, you just want chicken pho. For blustery days when chicken stock is just the ticket, Pho Ga Dakao is your destination. Order the "special" pho ga (ga means chicken in Vietnamese) with everything and you'll be rewarded with slick pieces of chicken skin, savory hearts and dense little egg yolks in your pho along with plenty of noodles and meat.
2. Pho Binh
Make note that this is the location on Beemer, the one inside a white trailer that runs out of pho like clockwork every day around 2 p.m. and closes for months at a time while the owners return to Vietnam. Pho Binh won our Best of Houston® award back in 2007 for the same reasons it's still wonderful today: incredibly rich broth with a concentrated beef flavor that comes from roasting the bones before simmering them for hours on end. Add some bo vien (meatballs) and ask for extra fat on the side to really elevate the pho here into something supremely glorious.
1. Pho Danh
Wrote EOW blogger Jason Bargas of our winner this year:
When it comes to pho, the secret is in the broth. Pho Danh ladles it daily to discriminating diners from the location in the back of Hong Kong Market. The light yet deep beef flavor in your bowl tells you that some big bones have been simmering for days in large stock pots. Bold souls order the large, with tripe, tendon and fatty beef. Rookies should stick with meatballs and brisket. Doctor your dish with fish sauce, lime and Sriracha as you see fit. Cool your taste buds with a Vietnamese iced coffee.