You may have heard by now that when it comes to Vietnamese food, Minnesota serves up some of the best in the country, at least according to Anthony Bourdain. We couldn't agree more. And with the recent arctic temperatures, this is fortunate news, because there's nothing better to warm you up than a piping hot, soul-soothing bowl of Vietnamese pho (pronounced fuh). We tested two Minneapolis heavy hitters on Eat Street, Pho Tau Bay and Pho 79, to determine whose signature pho is best for chasing away the chill and leaving you blissfully sated.
Pho Tau Bay
Pho Tau Bay's namesake pho ($6.95/small; $7.45/large) arrived in a steaming bowl filled with sliced beef, flank steak, tendon, tripe, meatballs, and rice noodles, alongside a garnish platter of bean sprouts, basil leaves, sliced jalapenos, and lime. The pink slices of rare beef gently poached in the broth as we gave the noodles a swirl with our chopsticks. We found the broth so rich and beefy, heady with fatty marrow and licorice notes of star anise, that there was no reason to adulterate it with garnishes or sauces. Chewy tripe and gelatinous tendon gave the dish textural contrast, while onion slices, scallions, and cilantro added a hint of green freshness. All in all, this was a phenomenal bowl of pho.
The signature pho at Pho 79 ($7.59) arrived as a velvety, heavily spiced broth swimming with thin, pink slices of rare beef, dark slices of fat-marbled brisket, well-done flank, soft tendon, crunchy tripe, beef balls, and squared rice noodles. Pho 79's bowl contained noticeably more greens than Pho Tau Bay's, which added a crisp burst of flavor that cut the meaty richness and provided a nice contrast to the silky, chewy noodles. Pho 79's broth also differed from Pho Tau Bay's, with a stronger presence of star anise, a heavier punch of cinnamon, and a faintly detectable sweetness.
The winner: Although both Pho Tau Bay and Pho 79 serve excellent versions of pho, we thought Pho Tau Bay's take had a richer, beefier, and ultimately more satisfying broth, one that almost made us forget it was winter altogether. We definitely know where we'll be heading the next time the mercury takes a plunge.
Pho Tau Bay
2837 Nicollet Ave. S.
2529 Nicollet Ave. S.