100 Favorite Dishes

100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 2, Bone Marrow Pho at Pho Binh by Night

This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.

Pho Binh first established a reputation for serving the best pho in town out of a trailer on Beamer Road. The tight space would get packed with hoards of people seeking out the magical broth, so pure and flavorful after simmering for hours and hours to elicit every nuance from the meat. The soup would be filled with slippery noodles, rare beef or meatballs and whatever else you wanted to add from a platter of bean sprouts, lime wedges, chiles and basil.

Following the success of the trailer, the owners opened a bigger, brighter spot that shines like a beacon in the darkness on Bellaire after hours: Pho Binh by Night. It's open until 3 a.m., and it, too, is consistently packed with people seeking out the best pho in town at any time of day or night. And those in the know know the best pho comes with a side of a little something extra, something rich and decadent.

Bone marrow.

When you order at Pho Binh by Night, you choose from one of the meat or meat combos on the menu, then be sure and put in an order for bone marrow. The pho is great on its own--I usually get the rare beef--but when paired with that little plastic bowl of glistening, gelatinous bone marrow, it becomes out-of-this-world fantastic.

Stir in a blob of bone marrow, which will start to disintegrate just a little from the force of the stirring, then spoon up a bite of the lush broth mixed with the marrow for the ultimate pho experience. The broth alone is complex and incredibly flavorful, but the extra dose of decadence from the marrow turns a simple dish extra ordinary.

I always find myself forgetting to add the bean sprouts and chiles, so enamored am I with the jiggling marrow in my bowl. Sometimes I forgo the pho bowl all together and dip my rounded plastic spoon into the bowl of marrow, slurping up all the intense meaty jelly I can before someone--usually a watchful friend--reminds me that I need to share.

One marrow supplement can easily feed two people because it's so rich. And one bowl of pho is more than enough for a hungry diner, meaning you can have a luxurious meal for under $15 and leave feeling as if you've dined like kings.

But beware: Last time I ate at Pho Binh by night, I found myself so pho-happy upon leaving that when a stray dog walked up to me in the parking lot, I said what the heck and took her home with me. I still have this dog. Bone marrow pho can make one do wild and crazy things.

See the full list of favorites on the next page.

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Kaitlin Steinberg