PHO DAI LOI
PHO DAI LOI 4186 BUFORD HIGHWAY NE, ATLANTA, 30345 404-633-2111 Pho has been the new trendy food for a few years now. You always hear people talking about it and arguing about how to pronounce it properly. Is it FOH? Or is it FUH? Whichever way you decide to say it, you need to try it at least once in your lifetime. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup usually served with your choice of meat in it. I tried pho for the first time last year and immediately fell in love with it. It is one of those foods you will start to crave randomly and need to get your fix. If it is raining and cold, you want it. If it is 100 degrees out, you want it. If you are hung over, you REALLY want it. Now, basically everyone falls in love with pho, so it’s not really a matter of if you will like it or not, it is more about finding the best pho in your city. And, well, I think I have found the best in Atlanta at Pho Dai Loi. Pho Dai Loi is tucked away in the corner of a strip mall called Little Saigon on the famous Buford Highway. You have probably passed it a million times and never even noticed it. You would never know it existed unless a friend told you, or an awesome food photography blog put you on! Pho Dai Loi has three locations around the city, so this particular location is known as Pho Dai Loi #2. On a side note, Buford Highway is a GEM for authentic food from so many different countries. If you have never taken a day to just drive down this road and explore all of the little shopping centers representing each country, you need to take the time to do so! I plan on visiting many more restaurants on Buford Highway for my upcoming blogs.
ATMOSPHERE: As stated before, this is like a secret little gem locked away in the corner of an ambiguous strip mall. With that being said, you don’t really come here for the atmosphere. The star of the show is really the food, particularly the pho. The walls are painted a light green with wood paneling accents along the back wall. There are paintings scattered along the walls, and there is really no theme to the place. But I think that kind of adds to the down home charm of the place. They are not trying to impress you with fancy wallpaper or big dramatic tables. The food speaks for itself. One thing I do like about Pho Dai Loi that is a bit different than most restaurants is that the tables are clumped together so most of the time you end up sitting next to strangers. Some people might not care for this, but I don’t mind it because it creates a community feeling throughout the place. And if you don’t want to eat it there, you can always get the pho to go, and they will provide you with everything you need in a nice and neat to go package!
SERVICE: One word to describe the service at Pho Dai Loi: QUICK. No matter how busy they are (which is usually extremely busy all of the time) you are always seated within 5 minutes. Drink ordered are taken right away, promptly followed by food orders. Appetizers are always brought out within 5 minutes after ordering, and entrees are usually less than 10 minutes. They leave the check at the table and when you are finished with your meal you bring the ticket up to the front register and pay. It is a very quick and effective way to get exactly what you want in a timely manner. The staff will always bring out extra sides if you ask and will help you with any questions you have about the menu. FOOD: The star of the show here is the pho, but they do offer many other options of traditional Vietnamese food. I have always stuck with the pho though, because why mess with it if it isn’t broken?! I always start out my meal with the fresh steamed spring rolls. They are always extremely fresh and a great start to your meal. It comes with a traditional Thai peanut sauce, which I opt out of because I have a thing where I hate mixing savory and sweet things together. I usually make my own concoction of soy sauce and sriracha (the heavenly red rooster!) The vegetables are crispy and the shrimp is extremely fresh. These rolls are very basic but get the job done.
Fresh steamed spring roll
Next, comes the star of the show, the pho! First, they bring out the traditional plate of Thai basil, bean sprouts, lime, cilantro, and jalapenos. You can add as much or as little of these ingredients as you like, it is customizable to your liking! I add it ALL. They offer 24 different options of pho based on which meat you would like in your pho. They have everything from flank steak, to shrimp, to tendon. You also choose which size you want (small, medium, or large). The serving sizes are huge here, but I suggest going with the large because even if you don’t finish it, it makes for great leftovers!
The extensive pho menu with 24 options to choose from
The traditional garnishes for pho
Whichever route you go, it is guaranteed to be delicious! I am a bit adventurous so I get pho #5 which is the combination special and comes with eye-round steak, well-done flank, marble brisket, soft tendon, and bible-tripe. I suggest if you have never had pho before to go with this option because it gives you all of the different types of meats to enjoy. If you do not know what bible tripe is I suggest you eat is first, then google it later. It is one of those mental things that might get in the way of you being open minded to trying it if you knew what it was. Just trust me, try it.
The key to a good pho is the BROTH. Other pho places I have tried have never been able to live up to the broth at Pho Dai Loi. They are sometimes watery and lack flavor, but not here. The broth at this place is so flavorful and rich. It is such a complex flavor, and hard to describe, but it is the best I have tried in Atlanta. The meats are juicy, tender, and succulent and compliment the crisp bean sprouts amazingly. The noodles are soft and tender and add body to the soup. You have just got to try this pho!
Pho #5 (combination special)
PRICE: The price at Pho Dai Loi is unbeatable. The spring rolls are $3 and depending on which size you get, the pho ranges from $7.25-$9.25, and with serving sizes big enough to feed a family of 12, how can you beat that?! FINAL GRADE: Based on all of the following criteria discussed above I give Pho Dai Loi an A. The atmosphere is basic and simple, letting the food be the star of the show. The service is extremely quick and efficient, the price is amazing, and the pho is the best I have tried in Atlanta so far. There is really no reason why you should not close your internet browser right now (after commenting and sharing with your friends of course) and make a trip to Pho Dai Loi for an amazingly flavorful meal!