So I had my very first Pho experience recently! I am a huge lover of any kind of broth + noodle dish, and I’ve always wanted to try pho, but haven’t really been certain where to go for an authentic experience. I had a few places that were recommended to me numerous times. The two restaurants that stood out were: Sticky Rice Cafe and Bida Saigon.
Sticky Rice Cafe is Laotian cuisine. It was pointed out to me, that pho is actually a Vietnamese dish. The reviews led me to go ahead and give it a try. I was NOT disappointed! I tried the seafood pho, with shrimp and squid. The aromatics were fantastic and the broth was SO GOOD. I had no other experiences to compare to at that point, but I could certainly enjoy pho on the regular based off this experience alone!
The staff was fantastic and very helpful. I even heard several customers rave about the cooks preparing special “off menu” items when requested. The only negative is that there simply isn’t a lot of seating at this place. You could have a pretty decent wait time if you go during peak meal hours.
My dinner companion was VERY much into eating authentic exotic cuisines, and did a fair amount of research on Laotian food before our visit. Not only did he order a traditional Laotian dish, but he ordered it completely RAW! His reading indicated that this was the way all the natives eat this dish. The waitress asked numerous times if he was certain that he didn’t want the beef cooked. All the workers seemed pretty impressed that he ate the dish the way that they did! We also shared an order of fried chicken skins, which were AMAZING! I would highly recommend them as an appetizer if you visit. Pictured below is the plate of Beef Laab along with one their adorable little steamer baskets of sticky rice.
Not long after trying Sticky Rice Cafe, I tried out my second bowl of pho. This time I tried out another reputable place that also came very highly recommended. This place is indeed Vietnamese, so I was “fully authentic” this time around. Bida Saigon is located in West Knoxville, and certainly worth a visit! My Mom and I tried this place on Sunday after church. Our visit was my Mom’s first pho experience! This time I tried the Pho Tai, which is basically delicious broth with rice noodles, thin slices of rare beef, and aromatics. I was a bit more adventurous this time, and added a decent amount of spicy pepper paste and fresh jalapenos. It was AMAZING.
*Bida Saigon doesn’t have a website, but you can check them out on Facebook*
My Mom tried the Pho Ga, which is the same base, but with chicken as the protein. Her pho was very mild, but full of flavor. I was pleasantly surprised by the subtle differences in the pho from both restaurants, and would absolutely recommend them both! We also shared some fresh spring rolls with peanut sauce that were a great appetizer!
It’s safe to say that I’m pretty obsessed with this dish now, and will be on the lookout for more opportunities to try more pho! Where is your “go to” spot for pho?