Sure, you can probably find better pho in the city. (I hear Turtle Tower and PPQ in the Tenderloin are good.) But in my mind, Clement Street in the Inner Richmond is still the home of pho in San Francisco. The abundance of pho restaurants and Asian markets are part of what give Clement its character. It’s easy to get here by bus, safe and easy to park, and an interesting street to stroll and shop. Pho, if you’re not familiar, is a large bowl of soup, with a flavorful broth, vermicelli rice noodles and beef, chicken or seafood. I usually order ‘ga’, or chicken. And every bowl typically comes with a side of bean sprouts, lime wedges, fresh sprigs of basil and sliced jalapeno that you add to taste. Here’s a rundown of the pho places you’ll find here.
309 6th Ave.
This little counter place, located a half-block from Clement, doubles as my pharmacy. Whenever I feel a cold or flu coming on, I take home a big bowl of crab/tomato pho with ginger and added hot pepper sauce, and let the steam work through my sinuses while the soup warms my bones. I always feel better, partly from the excellent soup, and partly I believe the good karma from the older gentleman who owns and runs the place. I often feel like I’m visiting someone’s home kitchen. There’s a counter with stools if you choose to eat in, and the menu is short and simple, and includes sandwiches and spring rolls.
239 Clement St.
Bright and fluorescently lit, Pho Clement has a strangely institutional ambience, with lots of large and small tables and a wide-screen TV on the far wall. It does a good business, and always seems fairly busy when I walk by. The pho comes in three size of soup bowls for the hungry to extremely hungry, and all cheap of course. And like many pho restaurants, also hedges its bets by serving Chinese food. It can also be a little uneven, the pho ga I ordered on one occasion was merely warm (not hot).
Pho Tu Do
1000 Clement St.
A step up in ambience from typical pho restaurant, Pho Tu Do is still fairly simple. But it’s nice enough to bring your parents to, especially if you’re buying (read: cheap). The food is good, standard pho for the city. It’s also on a quieter end of Clement, so there’s usually plenty of parking.
Minh’s Garden Vietnamese Cuisine
208 Clement St.
This closet size pho place is cheap and friendly. The food? I had a bad experience here, though some people like it because there’s usually customers inside.
Mai’s Vietnamese Restaurant
316 Clement St.
If Little Vietnam is closed, or I feel like sitting down, Mai’s is my go-to pho place on Clement. It’s basic, naturally, but there’s a simple warmth to the place. The food is good, and consistently above average, and certainly worth the price. A lunch or dinner of pho here always warms me up, especially on those cold January or August days when the fog is rolling in.