Vietnamese soup is good food any time of the year, and always fun to accessorize with fresh vegetables and spicy sauces -- but on a cold day like today, a great bowl of pho is enough to bowl you over. Fortunately, in Denver our cup runneth over with pho spots.
Here, in no particular order (until the end), are our ten favorite spots for pho.
10. Pho Lee, 6860 South Clinton Street Greenwood Village Dung Anh Le opened Pho Lee late last year with his wife, Phuong Nguyen; he's the brother of Aaron Le, who owns Pho 95, a local pho temple, and worked there for years. Overseeing this kitchen is Dung's mother-in-law, Quyen Nguyen, who spent nearly two decades at Pho Fusion and T-Wa Inn. The pedigree shows in every taste of the pho, yours to tweak with 23 protein combinations and an array of fresh, spicy and crunchy toppings.
9. Vietnam Grill, 1015 South Federal Boulevard A meal at Vietnam Grill is a culinary education. The menu is long but well-organized; even so, navigating a list like this can seem like learning a second language. Alongside far less familiar items are the rice noodle dishes and pho, always a safe -- and delicious -- option.
8. Pho Le, 1195 South Federal Boulevard The pho at this Federal Boulevard spot is rich, complex and filling -- perfect for a cold, wet day. And the broth for the seafood pho is particularly nice: distinct and delicate.
7. Pho 79, 781 South Federal Boulevard Pho 79 never skimps on the meats in its soups, and generally offers a wider selection of fresh herbs than its competitors.
6. Pho 95, 1401 South Federal Boulevard A sort-of sibling to Pho Lee, Pho 95 has a particularly good option for its pho: marinated steak, which adds a punch of flavor to the dependable broth.
5. Pho Saigon, 9555 East Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village Pho Saigon is one of the best places to order tripe and tendon in your pho; the thin slicing and masterful treatment of these challenging cuts results in tender and addictive delicacies.
4. Pho 96, 2990 West Mississippi Avenue The cooks at this spot just off Federal have a light touch with the seasonings, which allows the natural flavors of the beef and herbs to shine.
3. Pho-natic, 229 East Colfax Avenue Located right across from the Capitol, the slightly upscale Pho-natic offers plenty of more mainstream options, including delicious fried rice. But when it comes to pho, this spot is just as authentic as any strip-mall joint on Federal.
2. Dong Khanh, 333 South Federal Boulevard Also known as Saigon Bowl, Dong Khanh took Best Vietnamese Restaurant honors in the Best of Denver 2012, for its vast array of Vietnamese dishes, all very well-done. And that includes the dozens of kinds of pho, served up in huge bowls full of flavor, with spanking fresh accoutrements.
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1. Pho Duy, 945 South Federal Boulevard And the winner of Best Pho in the Best of Denver 2013, Pho Duy. Fans of pho will stick up for their favorite joints like a couple of old-timers hashing out the finer points of Ford versus Chevy. When it comes to being the best, though, the tiny details add up to unquestioned excellence. Pho Duy gets those details right: the multi-layered complexity of the long-simmered beef broth, the fresh and artfully sliced rare steak, and the delicate and mild strands of tripe. If the dense fragrance of the spices isn't enough to end the argument, one spoonful will be. Pho Duy's noodle soup doesn't need advocates; it hushes the doubters with the subtlety, balance and integrity that come from years of doing it just so. Stir in your basil, your saw leaf and bean sprouts; add a slice of jalapeño and maybe a squirt of lime. But let the pho speak for itself and you won't need the sriracha or hoisin. It's not about the horsepower; this pho is the finely tuned engine of a master builder.