For quick and inexpensive pho, I generally go to Than Brothers. At $5.45 for a small bowl, enough to fill me up, I usually get a pho bo tai nam (rare eye of round and well-done flank). Available for $6.25 is a medium bowl, all the way up to extra large for a mere $7.25. This kind of value is the reason Than Brothers has now expanded to multiple locations throughout the Puget Sound area, with two more on the way. Their pho is not the best you can get around here, but it’s good enough when I don’t feel like spending a lot for a quick and satisfying meal.
Their model is simple and straightforward. As soon as you get seated, a wait person brings to your table a plate of vegetable condiments (Thai basil, bean sprouts and sliced jalapeños) for your soup, complimentary banh choux a la cream (custard puff) and water. After a few minutes, your order is taken. Within ten minutes, often less, a steaming bowl of pho is placed before you. When you’re done, you pay at the cash register. The service is fast and efficient, no friendly chit-chatting with customers. The surroundings are utilitarian, clean. That’s it. No fuss, no bother.
What about the eating experience? The pho (☆☆½) is solid. The broth has good beefy flavor, with hints of star anise and cinnamon and a little tartness from lime, perked up with slices of brown and green onions. You can also add hoisin sauce, spicy chile oil or Rooster sauce (sriracha), all available at your table, along with napkin dispenser, container of chopsticks, and neatly stacked Chinese soup spoons and little dishes, service ware that doesn’t need to be brought to you. The ball of rice noodles is clumped at the bottom of the bowl, obviously having been made in advance and topped with hot broth to heat up. A little jiggling with chopsticks will loosen them straightaway. The cream puff (☆☆) has never impressed me much.
Good value for your money indeed.