#6: Pho Tenderloin

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The San Francisco Treat

Rice-A-Roni is still for sale in supermarkets and I may open myself to legal liability by saying that I disagree that it is the San Francisco treat. That distinction belongs to pho in San Francisco. I stayed at the Westin St. Francis on Union Square right in the heart of the city and asked the concierge where the best place was to down a bowl of pho. She told me of a fusion restaurant nearby that made pho with a twist.

Not interested in fusion or twists, I asked her about two local spots that I had seen on Yelp. A troubled look came across her face as she once again suggested the modern Asian restaurant. I pressed her for a reason why and she told me that the restaurants I had mentioned were not in the best neighborhood. Reiterating again, I was going for pho and not fashion, I pressed her for directions.  She relented and wrote down the directions of two restaurants located in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.

I opted to walk from the hotel, bypassing the advice to take a taxi, feeling that once again luxury was being unnecessarily overprotective . Every big city from Baghdad to Baltimore has poses some degree of danger and being aware of your surroundings is advisable no matter where you go. Hungry, I made my way to Larkin street and came upon two restaurants, side by side, Turtle Tower and Pho 2000. The casual pho diner would toss a coin, leaving his pho future in the hands of fate. The discerning pho connoisseur would notice that the names of the establishments had significance. As a well traveled, world traveled Pho King, I am that connoisseur.

Turtle Tower is a landmark in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and Pho 2000 is the name of a terrible Pho restaurant in Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) made famous because of a visit by former President Bill Clinton.

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This terrible Pho establihsment will not make the list.

A little uneasy from reliving the queasy feeling I had when I last visited Pho 2000, I opted to start my day at Turtle Tower and it was a delightful choice.

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The waiter said that sprouts are not an ingredient in traditional Hanoi Pho
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The NYT also ignored the concierge’s rec for fusion pho

Full, I debated whether to head back home to take a much needed nap after another satisfying bowl. Instead, I decided to give Pho 2000 SF a chance, calculating that this was not a franchise of the same establishment in Ho Chi Minh.

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The yummy sprouts of Saigon

While the Pho 2000 should file a trademark suit over its namesake because the pho was simply divine, it still has no case against Turtle Tower.

Verdict: #6 Best Pho in the World: Turtle Tower San Francisco

4 COMMENTS

  1. I live in the SF area. Yeah, the Tenderloin is seedy, but I’ve walked it hundreds of times as a female alone. Wouldn’t do it much after dark….but in the daytime? No problem. You’ll see some interesting people in the process. Probably wouldn’t take my small town grandma there though. Might freak her out about where I live. 😉 Glad you enjoyed the pho.

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