There are times I just drive around the east side of Wichita right after work until I find a place that looks good. Sometimes it can be miles and miles until I stop; sometimes I’ll end up on another side of town; but I am willing to make that sacrifice to make my best friend, my stomach, happy.
This week I was driving in the cold weather and six miles later came across a place I’m pretty sure was new to Wichita. I pulled a legal (of course) U-turn and pulled into the parking lot and came across Saigon Pho.
Saigon Pho is located at 4857 East Harry Street, Wichita, KS 67218. It’s a small little building located at the southeast corner of Harry and Oliver. Walking inside, it had the total feel of your family owned Vietnamese restaurant. You’re greeted kindly like family, there’s a television airing some Vietnamese TV show, the condiments on the table do not include ketchup or mustard………you get the picture. There was enough seating inside for roughly 40 people.
Being an avid lover of Pho, it was obviously the menu item I was going to choose. When it’s the first time trying out a Vietnamese restaurant, I always also order a side of spring rolls. When I tried to order them, the owner told me they were out of shrimp spring rolls and was very apologetic. I told him over and over, it was totally ok or as everybody’s favorite Bachelor Juan Pablo says, “Es ok”. Even after all that, the owner was still apologizing. So I started to wonder, “Does he recognize me?”, “Does he know I’m getting ready to review this place.” but after constant apologies I knew he was genuine about it. I then thought about ordering the pork spring rolls and he told me that I should pass as the shrimp is so much better; totally appreciate the honesty there and he’s right shrimp is so much better than pork when it comes to spring rolls.
Quick glance of the menu:
After the whole discussion about the spring rolls, I then decided to go with their P3 Pho which is rare eye round steaks, flank, brisket, and tendons. For most of their pho bowls, they have three sizes and I went with the large which was $7.95. Oh yeah….and no bean sprouts. I’ve never been a fan of those things despite the millions of times my mother has tried to get me to eat them.
Not too long after, the Pho was brought out; steaming hot as it should be and a wonderful beef broth smell. While I waited for it to cool down and added the obligatory hoisin sauce and sriracha, I had to chance to talk to the owner who was also doing the cooking. The owner is originally from Vietnam and a former machinist and decided to open up the restaurant last year. He told me that Saigon Pho has been open for about three and a half months and they’ve been doing well. He makes his broth overnight which is the way to do it; I am not a fan of Pho restaurants that make their broth right on the spot. This is not Spangles and made to order. Pho broth must sit and cook for hours on end. Overall a very nice gentleman and you could tell treated his cooking like a craft.
The very first thing I did once the Pho was ready was drink a spoonful of the broth. Verdict? Delicious. I had to take in a couple more spoonfuls to make sure my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me. As I mixed around my Pho, there were copious amounts of meat in there. Saigon Pho doesn’t skimp on this and gives you a healthy portion. Bite after bite, I was really thinking to myself, “Could this be the top Pho restaurant in Wichita?” To be honest, their Pho was right up there with the two places I consider to be the best Pho restaurants in Wichita: Pho Hein and My Tho. The only difference is it’s in a different area of town.
Price-wise you won’t find much of a difference between most major Pho restaurants in Wichita. They are all about the same. Saigon Pho does have a Monday-Friday lunch specials that run $5-6 if you are in that area. Something to note, they do accept credit cards unlike some of the other Pho establishments in town.
Coming from a person who has been to plenty of Pho restaurants and grew up on the meal, I will easily put Saigon Pho as one of the top three Pho restaurants in Wichita. Given the location, I wish them the best and hope they last. Give them a try; it’ll be worth your time.
Lastly I’d like to dedicate this blog in memory of my aunt. By far the best Vietnamese cook I’ve ever known. She really set the bar for cooking in my book and I’ll continue to scour the streets of Wichita to find a bowl of Pho that matches her. Miss you every day.