Best Pho in Manhattan, NYC

Pho is probably my favorite soup–deceptively simple: broth, rice noodles, meat and herbs–yet wonderfully subtle and complex when made correctly. In fact, making a proper pho broth literally takes hours, in order to achieve a rich yet clear broth from the beef bones and correct balance of charred onion, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and star anise. Suffice to say that it's never something I've attempted to make at home. Given how important the broth is, if you do get a bowl of pho, sample the broth. If it's great, I recommend that you not spoil it by putting too much beyond the bean sprouts and torn basil in it. Instead, squirt bits of Sriracha chili sauce and hoisin sauce on the meat and noodles after you pluck them out of the broth. Of course, if you get lousy pho broth, then by all means try to doctor the broth itself with all the condiments.

Manhattan isn't known for great pho spots (the ones in Elmhurst, Queens, are apparently much, much better than anything you'll find in Manhattan) but they're a lot easier to get to for me. Here are my favorites to date, along with one to avoid:

1. Pho Grand

I tried Pho Grand quite recently, after the huge disappointment of Veatery (see below), and it was very good–I would even say slightly better than Pho Bang, although I should probably revisit Pho Bang soon to verify that. It was certainly good enough that my husband only got a few spoonfuls of my very generous portion. The broth was hot enough to cook the very thin slices of beef, as it should, and noodles were cooked perfectly and not mushy. I would have liked more basil on the condiment plate, and I wasn't thrilled that one of the staff simply grabbed the jalapenos from our table and gave it to another table, without asking if we needed it, but it's not as if you go to pho places for stellar service–ultimately the pho quality is what counts. Note that although they do take credit cards, the minimum is $20, so plan on using your Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Best Pho in Manhattan, NYC


We also tried other things, and the grilled pork chop and pork chive dumplings were delicious, although the Vietnamese spring roll wrappers were too thick.

Best Pho in Manhattan, NYC-Pho Grand


2. Pho Bang

Pho Bang is in Little Italy, but it's about as authentic as pho places come in Manhattan. The broth is hot, well flavored, not msg-laced (or has so little I didn't detect it) and there's a good balance between the meat and noodles. If you do want more meat though, you have the option to order your pho with more. I also recently enjoyed pho with grilled pork chop on the side (should be #14 on the pho menu) for just $7. The condiments include the usual bean sprouts, fresh basil and lime. No rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) but I have yet to find a place in Manhattan that provides it, unlike in the Bay Area where the better places do. There's also complimentary tea served in the winter. Cash only, so you'll have to forego using your Chase Freedom for points.

Best Pho in Manhattan, NYC

3. Ninh Kieu

Ninh Kieu is our favorite spot in Manhattan for Vietnamese comfort food when we crave variety. I wouldn't rate the pho here quite as highly as Pho Grand and Pho Bang, as the broth isn't quite as clear or as nuanced. But we do love being able to also order Banh Xeo and fried softshell crab, which are done very well here, and which are appealing if you're with a kid who isn't yet a pho fan.

Ninh Kieu - Pho Tai

4. Cong Ly

Cong Ly offers serviceable pho, but I can't rate the broth as highly based on what I sampled here, compared to Pho Grand and Pho Bang. The flavor was a bit flat and lacking in depth. I also felt that there wasn't quite enough meat given with the noodles. The condiments were fine in terms of freshness, but I was surprised to see lemon instead of lime. Lime is traditional, and even though I don't use it, it made me suspicious of the authenticity overall. Still, if for some reason Pho Grand and Pho Bang were closed and I had a pho craving, I'd come here. Note that Cong Ly is cash only.

Best Pho in Manhattan, NYC

Where NOT to Eat Pho in Manhattan

Basically, be wary of anyplace that:

1) Doesn't have “pho” in its name (or at least a pho symbol on its sign, such as Ninh Kieu); or

2) Doesn't offer a number of different types of pho

While I was excited to find Veatery, a new Vietnamese place a bit closer to where I live, I shouldn't have gotten too excited. While it is slightly nicer than hole in the wall places, the food, particularly the pho, is just not that good. The broth was not that robust, it wasn't hot enough, and there was very little meat. Boo! Unless they start making pho a lot better, avoid Veatery for pho.

Best Pho in Manhattan, NYC-Avoid Veatery for pho

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