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.
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.
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.
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
WARNING: TPOL NO LONGER BELIEVES THIS IS TRUE. Pho Tenderloin may be #6 but Turtle Tower is now terrible. Read the updated review here.