Q: Where can I get pho downtown?
A: This is why I never have to buy a calendar (well, this question and the invention of smartphones explains it.) If you’re thinking about noodle soup, it must be cold and dark outside.
Not so many years ago, pho was a rare commodity in the Charleston area. Fans of the Vietnamese soup had to take their cravings to Phuong or H&L Asian Market, both on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston. Then Hibachi Grill, since renamed Lanna Thai Cuisine, opened on Ashley Phosphate Road with a terrific Vietnamese menu. The pho minds behind that operation are now at work at Pho Saigon on James Island.
So that covers pho north and south. To the east, Janice Nguyen Hudgins at press time was on the cusp of opening Little Miss Ha in Mount Pleasant. The popular Vietnamese restaurant existed previously as a stall at Workshop. It’s the second dedicated pho joint in town, with Pho King recently marking its six-month anniversary on Shelmore Boulevard.
As for pho on the peninsula, it pops up on the pan-Asian menus at Fire Street Food and CO. The pho at the latter is about on par with the pho served at Riso Noodle House in West Ashley, which is to say it’ll more than do in a pinch. Pink Bellies has served pho in the past, but Thai Phi is winding down his pop-ups in order to prepare for his move into a permanent location.
Still, when you ask where you can get pho downtown, I’m assuming you want more than a directory, so here’s my recommendation: The pho at Ding Tea & Ha Long Café is my current favorite.
At Ha Long, the pho menu is short. If it’s tripe or tendon you want in your bowl, you may have to wait for your next trip to Atlanta. The choices here are brisket, meatballs and rare beef, and the only broth is beef-based. But what Ha Long serves is bound to satisfy most other desires that drive people to place a pho order. The slow-simmered soup has a good amount of depth, with a slightly smoky character and a tingle of lemongrass.
And if Ha Long doesn’t do it for you, not to worry. Based on the above, I’m sure we’ll see still more pho soon.