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Pho Restaurant Rivalries

April 23, 2010

image It’s exactly what you’re thinking, that’s a bowl of Pho Tai Chin (Pho w/Beef and Brisket) that I found on the internet. Why didn’t I take a picture of a steaming bowl of goodness I was about to devour? Because I’m sure you all know what Pho looks like and would probably hate me more if I rubbed in the fact that I was about to eat a bowl myself. Which I am. And you probably hate me now.

Me Against Them
Definitely not me, but everyone versus everyone. Pho is enjoyed by many more types of people than just the Vietnamese. Many of my friends practically squeal with joy whenever I suggest pho as a lunch option. The hard part is picking where to go. Kim Long, Hoa, Nam, 54, 909, and iPho are just a few that I can name off to the top of my head that are within a 20 minute drive from my house. That’s without even thinking hard! There’s a ton more.

Living next to Milpitas and subsequently San Jose, I’m blessed with a large concentration of Vietnamese people, culture and food. With pho being a mainstay food item, it’s only natural for it to become a leading idea in business for Vietnamese restaurants. Now we’re faced with the hard decision of not only picking the right place and going there, but having to forgo visiting the other option. In business, it would be called an opportunity cost. In food, it’s called missing out on a chance to try what may be a very tasty bowl of pho.

Inside the dragon’s lair
Earlier today, I saw to pho restaurants literally across the street from each other. One was packed and had a line at the door, the other was deserted. The former was clean, had nice seating and lighting, and was very professional. The latter was a dirty, dingy, and from what I’ve heard, rude. What now also comes into play is decor and service. With so many pho venues, besides having great pho, owners have learned that you need to provide a nice place for your patrons and good (moderate) service. It’s America, we expect things to be in the up and up.

Of course, we don’t expect the best in fine dining and service to die for, it’s just pho, after all. But when the person doesn’t take your drink order and just drops your bowl of pho off without even looking you in the eye, that’s just rude. Traditionally, pho places don’t expect much of a tip partly because the price of one bowl of pho will most likely earn them less than a dollar at best. But if done right, I’ve found myself tipping more than enough when I’m with a few friends because it send a message. Do things right, make the food taste good, serve it friendly and you’ve not only earned your due money and tips, you’ve earned a repeat customer with a strong word of mouth.

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