Regular readers here at Gastronaut probably know where to find good pho in town—or at least they have their own local favorites. Many have no doubt also read about all the excellent pho just waiting to be found along Bellaire Blvd. in Chinatown. But as a citizen who resides outside Houston proper, I think it’s about time we add to the metro area list of where to feed your craving for slurpy rice noodles and rich, delicious beef broth. To that end, I’ve been searching the Sugar Land area—my own home turf—and have found what I consider two must-eat places for pho.
Saigon was restaurant I'd never heard of before researching local Vietnamese restaurant listings and Yelp reviews. It took a lot of poking around for me to discover this place—which is just past University Blvd. on Highway 6—but, boy, am I glad I did. Brightly colored décor and a background soundtrack of Michael Jackson made for an upbeat, pleasant atmosphere matched by the service, which was provided with genuine smiles and courtesy. When my family and I sat down, we were only there for one thing: pho, be it lean brisket or chicken.
Saigon delivered, with some of the most aromatic broths have ever experienced. Rich in flavor and bright in smell, Saigon’s soups are the perfect thing to fill rumbling tummies. Big bowls, big flavor, and big plates of bean sprouts and basil for the table to split. What more can you ask for in a meal?
Pho Ben is a place I’ve been going to for a couple of years now. It would be appropriate to call my family regulars there, as it was my dad’s and sister’s soup junkets that got them started searching for the ideal bowl of pho, and thusly led them to Pho Ben. Not too long after, I got dragged into it too, and now we’re familiar faces in the Friday lunch crowd.
Pho Ben has a classy atmosphere and modern decor, and its fast service leaves more time for you to focus on eating. You’ll need it too, because Pho Ben doesn’t skimp on portions, even when you order a small bowl. My favorite is the white meat chicken soup, in which I swear is an entire chicken breast, thinly sliced, with lovely, slippery rice noodles. Dressing up this soup bowl is my favorite part of the meal, as the freshly torn basil leaves really make the flavors pop. The only complaint we’ve ever had at Pho Ben is that they need sturdier napkins, because when I go to town on a bowl of pho, things can get a little messy.
The differences between these two establishments all come down to preferences. Saigon uses hoisin sauce rather than plum sauce, and their noodles can be a little on the sticky side, so it takes some massaging to get the flavorful broth to seep into them. Pho Ben uses plum sauce and has noodles that aren’t so sticky, but broth that doesn’t have the same rich scent to it. Both are big on flavor and quality, but their differences are mostly subtle. Both of these restaurants are on Highway 6, which makes me think that there must be some kind of magic about the road itself to provide two great restaurants so conveniently.
So get out there and find out which of these two are your new personal favorite, or share your own local pho discoveries with us in the comments section below.