Pholl of Regrets: Turtle Tower’s Decline in San Francisco


The Turtle Tower Pho Review San Francisco is part of the South America & Africa Points Heist Trip Report.

We all make mistakes. I haven’t made one since ’78, but I understand why people do. That’s why I hope you forgive me for writing in July of 2014 that Turtle Tower is the 6th best place to get pho in the world. It is not. Indeed, it may be the worst place in the world next to just about everywhere in New York. After 40 days on the road, I wanted a bowl of pho to get my mind and belly right. In no mood for tricks, I went to what I thought was the best pho place in in San Francisco. Naturally, I consulted yours truly, the Pho King’s pho review page for where to go.

It said, and I quote, “Verdict: #6 Best Pho in the World: Turtle Tower San Francisco.” Without hesitation, I took an Uber to the restaurant. I was a bit confused because when I went the first time, the restaurant was on the corner.

The old address

The new location, two doors down, was nicer. That should have been a warning sign because good pho and nice establishments do not go hand-in-hand. I overlooked this tell-tale sign because the line was out the door during lunch on a weekday. After twenty minutes of waiting, we were seated. I ordered the standard spring rolls and pho tai and waited.

The Spring Rolls

Never judge the bowl by how good or bad the spring rolls are. Here, they were pretty good. If you’re good at rolling rice paper, spring rolls are not hard to make. Fresh ingredients are as key as is the peanut sauce.

The Pho? 

The Broth?

Then came the pho. To be clear, this is Hanoi inspired pho. No sprouts, no hoisin, no sriracha. The truth of the broth is not left to the experimenting diner who infuses the soup at his discretion. In Hanoi, it’s take it or leave it. The broth is either great or it is not. Here, it certainly was not.

The Noodles? 

This is pho right? Broth that has been simmering for hours, raw beef, and noodles. That’s about it. I already stated that the broth was bad but the noodles were worse. I do not know the particular style of noodle but these were too thick and too bland. Noodles were also a disappointment.

The Beef

As you can see, the beef came already cooked. That’s a no no, and another no.

Check? No Please 

I didn’t finish. I didn’t come close. I left angry after paying $38.31 for a big bowl of pho, a normal bowl, spring rolls, and two iced coffees. Had I checked the steep price, I would’ve had another warning that bad pho was on its way.

Wake up people! Don’t eat bad pho.

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