What The Pho (actually spelled phở and pronounced fuh as in fuck – hey someone’s gotta say it!) is one of suburban Atlanta’s long standing Vietnamese restaurants. It’s been in the Duluth/Gwinnett area for a handful of years and has seen its share of foodistas slip quietly through its very casual digs. Though I’ve dusted my share of pho bowls, it’s been some time since my last visit and hence we have a faux first impression.
Joined in arm by one sleek beauty, we set off from the inner city one Tuesday evening destined for this Pleasant Hill mainstay. It’s just a few steps east of Buford Highway, sitting north side and next to the destination worthy Café Todahmgol. Given the area’s propensity for mysterious signs that might as well say “Go Pho-ck Yourself” in some other language, you might want to tote a GPS with you if you’re navigationally challenged. Somehow, even though I’ve been in the area a million times … I managed to take a wrong turn!
Detours aside, I finally manage to convince Laura that when I pulled into the strip center, I meant to. We walked in ready to Narfle the Garthok and chit chat our night away. [This is where you ask yourself … What the Pho is he talking about?]
Inside, we were led to seats among the cafeteria style tables that teemed with steaming plates of goodness getting inhaled by people of all sorts. It’s an upscale dive with brushed metal whozy-whats-its covering one of the walls and a complimentary exposed kitchen, shiny and silver from tip to tail that rests just outside the main stage. A few cool tids and bits make up the rest of the decor. Like I said, it’s kinda like a fancy cafeteria.
Staff members transition from sedentary beings to overzealous attendees with a simple flip of the switch. While I’m not entirely sure what you have to do flip that switch, once turned on – these dudes bust a nut. Moments later, Medusa hits and they return to their natural state … statuesque and lifeless. It leaves you feeling a bit befuddled, but not hopelessly so. So yeah, the service isn’t bad or good, it’s just kinda weird. If you’re looking for button ups at your every disposal … you might as well get the pho out and head back to Buckhead.
The menu is an onslaught of protein dense selections, many of which seem fundamentally the same. It written in an English-Vietnamese mashup, so don’t fret. Not surprisingly, the main attraction here is that Vietnamese noodle soup identified as pho. Its rice noodles and flavorful broth (accented by things like basil and lime) really give the dish a punch. It’s worthy of carrying the restaurant’s torch, so much so that I didn’t need to try it this time to remember how good it was. After all, anything that’s prepared over several hours must be good … right?
While we flipped through the array of pages in the menu, Laura was thankfully able to focus our attention enough that we agreed on a “summer roll” for the appetizer. Noodles, basil leaves, and shrimp all showed up tightly wrapped in a soft noodle just a few minutes later. Promptly dunked in the fish-oil based sauce, it was in my belly not a few seconds following.
Somewhere in the middle of this, we managed to flag a server, score some chopsticks, and place our entrée requests. She went with a beef bun, I went with a grill plate. It couldn’t have taken more than five minutes to whip this up … it was freshly prepared and quickly propelled from the kitchen line toward its tragic fate with my chompers.
Bun is kinda like a close cousin to Pho. You’ll see it way back at the top of the post. It is served in a bowl and comes with shredded lettuce, cucumbers, and bean sprouts. The vermicelli noodles take up a good bit of the bowl and you’ll find your choice of proteins steaming and melting into the fresh goods just underneath. Though Laura isn’t one to pound down loads of food, she can eat just fine. She left with a to-go box featuring her next day’s lunch.
I ordered the “com tam tom bi cha thit nuong.” What the pho is that? Actually it’s skewered charbroiled pork, shredded pork, and grilled shrimp served with broken rice. While broken rice may have started as poor man’s grub, it’s found its way into my heart. It’s probably one of my favorite renditions of this worldly food. At What The Pho, it’s cooked perfectly and subtly accents the über flavorful meats that top your dish. The shrimp are fresh and grilled just enough so that their juice is still there. The seasoned meats are a great alternative to the staple American meats which rely on salt and pepper as the flavoring accents. Juicy and texturally fun – any one of the meats should get you just fine. The added on egg was like a tease of delight … it’s just soooo goood and salty.
Though I never had a wow bite, I was quickly able to stop focusing on the food and turn my attention to the lady across the table. While that would have happened anyway, the bang for your buck goodness of What The Pho made that a lot easier. When food this good is just $20 bucks for two, it’s really hard to find any significant faults.
While the name is a chintzy and What The Pho may not be good enough to get the King of Siam to cross the border, it’s good enough to satiate my need for solid Vietnamese food. If you’re going to get out of I285, and Vietnamese is on your mind …
there aren’t many viable alternatives around. There certainly aren’t any inside the perimeter. What The Pho is one of the better options. [My readers are better at this than I am] So check your ego, get your inner foodie … and GET THE PHO OUT!
Atlanta Foodies on What The Pho
What The Pho Restaurant Address & Information
2442 Pleasant Hill Rd, Duluth, GA 30096 // 770.814.9396