Pho Real? Four fantastic pho factories in Santa Rosa


A plate of fresh bean sprouts, basil, slices of jalapeños and lime commonly accompany the pho to add at the diner’s desire.

Devin Schwarz, Staff Writer

Whether you say it with a hard O or a soft A, there is no dispute, this soup is pho-cking amazing.

Pho has been a major part of Vietnamese culture since the early 20th century and was popularized by soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. Pho is a soup consisting of a veal bone broth seasoned with a variety of herbs depending on the region of Vietnam it is from. These include herbs and spices such as Vietnamese or Thai basil, mint, cilantro, cinnamon and star anise.

The broth is often sweetened or served with sugar on the table. This broth is poured over rice noodles and sometimes raw slices of beef and then brought to the table with a plate of lime, bean sprouts and Thai basil to be added at the diner’s discretion.

Here in Santa Rosa we are fortunate to have access to a plethora of foods from all over the world, among these we can find a number of Vietnamese establishments specializing in pho.

I found one of these establishments a block away from Santa Rosa Junior College at Goji Kitchen—a quaint yet hip restaurant that serves a number of classic Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean dishes with a unique Sonoma County twist, using no artificial ingredients. The lunch menu is sweet and simple with fewer options than your average Asian fusion joint but still having everything you could hope for, such as shrimp and pork spring rolls, walnut pineapple prawns and orange peel sesame chicken.

Everything offered looked delicious, but I was only after one thing: pho. The broth was masterfully seasoned and their meat was cooked to perfection. I was surprised by this authenticity considering that the restaurant was not, strictly speaking, Vietnamese. Goji Kitchen is a jack-of-all-trades and a great place to grab lunch during your long days at SRJC.

If you’re crazy for pho, look no further then Pho Crazy on the corner of West Third and Dutton. Small and tucked away, this simple Vietnamese establishment is hard to find but worth the search. With a menu smaller than Goji’s, making a decision is not hard at Pho Crazy and is easier when you’re only looking for pho.

Its namesake was well seasoned and contained three kinds of meat: brisket, top sirloin and what they call “beef balls.” I ordered all three and enjoyed the former two, the latter putting me off slightly. These were not the meatballs of European or American cuisine but tightly packed half-circles of meat that were far closer to an eraser in texture than anything I have had over spaghetti. If texture is not your thing, avoid the balls.

With a name like Simply Vietnam, this place was anything but simple. With a menu that expanded more than three pages and a secondary menu dedicated entirely to pictures of food, this place is not one to go to for a fast lunch out. Tucked away comfortably on North Dutton Avenue near West Ninth Street, Simply is often packed with people. You may have to wait for a seat, and be prepared to continue waiting for your order. After almost an hour of sitting I discovered that it was worth it. With some of the best appetizers don’t miss the spring rolls and hands down the best pho I tried while writing this article, Simply Vietnam is my top pick for quality. If it had arrived faster I would have dubbed this the number one place for pho in Santa Rosa.

Pho Vietnam, located off the beaten track in the Stony Point Plaza, this crowd pleaser has been popular in Santa Rosa for more then a decade; and they deserve it. With a menu rivaling the size of Simply Vietnam’s, you may also spend quite some time trying to pick just one item, but when you do it’ll be on the table in front of you before you can say, “Is ‘Pho Vietnam’ a double entendre?” The ordering is awkward as staff serves primarily to-go customers and it may be hard to figure out what you’re supposed to do. But in the end, this is made up for by true Vietnamese quality and unbelievably fast service.