5 to Try: Pho

This swoon-worthy soup--pronounced "fuh"--straight out of Vietnam has a cult-like following in San Francisco for many reasons: absurdly large, these hearty bowls of noodles are often also ludicrously inexpensive; ingredients can range from the approachable/pedestrian (chicken, beef) to the adventurous/disgusting (tripe, pork blood and chicken intestines); and the seventh grader in all of us can't get enough of the easily misappropriated name--Oakland's Pho King almost made our top five on sense of humor alone.

Updated: April 06, 2009

Noodle Shops

Turtle Tower Restaurant

631 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Good pho is all about the broth, which should be homemade and simmering for 10 hours or more, and this Tenderloin pho spot, probably the city's favorite, does just that. All the classics are there, so go for the little-bit-of-everything: rare and well-done beef, tendon and tripe. Only get the large if you're a competitive eater; the small is more than enough.

Pot De Pho

3300 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94118

Unfortunately, good ethnic eats are often synonymous with MSG overload and low-quality meats, but thankfully, this Inner Richmond resto sets the bar a little higher. Expect wagyu beef, organic pork and free-range chicken, plus a vegan option with meatless broth, and absolutely no MSG--meaning you'll leave feeling stuffed but not sedated.

Pho Clement

239 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

This Inner Richmond eatery is definitely more cafeteria-style diner than fine-dining institution (Formica tables, and fluorescent lighting often go hand in hand with pho), but the options are plentiful and portions are more than generous. Vegetarians will appreciate the surprisingly flavorful veggie-and-tofu version.

Golden Star

11 Walter U Lum Pl, San Francisco, CA 94108

When the craving for a flavorful Asian-style lunch hits, hike over to Chinatown and duck into this Vietnamese pho-favorite. The pho ga with five-spiced chicken is a house special, and though service is super quick, make sure to avoid the lunch-hour rush--the small restaurant fills quickly with FiDi suits.

Yummy Yummy Vietnamese

1015 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122

With a name like this Inner Sunset diner, the food has a lot to live up to. Luckily, Yummy Yummy delivers what the name promises, particularly with its tummy-burning bun bo hue--spicy soup stocked with a more rounded noodle than regular pho, plus sliced beef and pork, and your choice of the various traditional accompaniments (bean sprouts, lime, sliced jalapeno and basil leaves).