Pho 89 — based solely on its bland exterior — had the potential to be another strip mall gem that I would enjoy. Located on the south side of 198 — just down the street from Mega Chicken and GSK — it’s inexplicable that I’ve driven past it for years and never once stopped in. Today a coworker and I had a little lunch meeting there.
This little place was great.
There is incense burning in the entryway, past which more than a dozen dark wood tables sit atop the orangish brown tile floor. Tasteful light fixtures hang from the ceiling, paintings and other art adorns the walls, and there are a few small shrines set up around the immaculately clean interior. Containers of chop sticks and Asian-style soup spoons sit atop each table, as well a two unmarked squeeze bottles sauce; one was a sweet and Hoisin-like, the other was similar to (if not) Sriracha. There is a flat panel TV hung from the ceiling near the back, but it wasn’t turned on.
We arrived before noon and the place was empty, but as we ate and talked people continued to file in. Not a bad sign. Some of them were obviously regulars. Some were speaking in their native tongue with the hostess/waitress. Also not a bad sign.
I went for a large bowl of Tai Nam Pho ($6.85). When they say large, they mean large. As my coworker said, “I’m not sure what the small would look like, since it’s only 80 cents less.” Garnished with onions and cilantro, there’s an ample amount of noodles and broth and a good helping of meat (eye of round steak and well done flank; Tai and Nam, respectively). A side plate of bean sprouts, green chili, lime, and fresh sweet basil is provided too. I didn’t find the broth lacking before seasoning, but definitely preferred it with the juice of the lime and the crushed basil muddled in. It was more than filling and definitely hit the spot.
On a cold an overcast day, there are few things as comforting.