Try this new Vietnamese Restaurant at Ponce City Market
Ok, first let's talk about what Pho is and isn't.
1. It isn't ramen.
Although you would be forgiven if you couldn't tell the difference. I mean they're both basically soup with noodles, right? Yes.
So here's how they're different. Pho is Vietnamese. Ramen is Japanese. Pho has flat, clear rice noodles. Ramen has curly wheat noodles, like the dehydrated ones you lived on in college. Ramen is more Instagrammable with all its yummy ingredients, like pork, egg, corn, seaweed and more. Pho tends to keep it simple. Both are delicious.
2. It isn't pronounced "foe."
It's pronounced "fuh," which results in all kinds of punnish restaurant names like Pho Nam at Krog Street Market or Pho Cue, a Sunday pop up at A Mano, or Pho King Express near Georgia State (say them out loud with me, and you'll get it).
Now that you're up to speed, you can find some of the best pho and ramen at Ponce City Market on the Atlanta BeltLine. Ton Ton is already my boyfriend's ramen go-to with his kids for nearly every special occasion. And now Vietvana has opened next to Anthropologie in a new food hall annex, and if you were paying attention, you will immediately know they serve pho. You choose the broth - chicken, beef, vegetarian or spicy versions. Then there's an Anthony-Bourdain-worthy selection of meats - brisket, filet mignon, tripe, flank, tendon, meatball and more. The soup comes with onions, scallions, bean sprouts, cilantro and hand-made noodles. And bonus, if you order it as takeout, you get all the ingredients individually wrapped with a side of broth, so you can literally "build your own bowl."
For me this was fantastic because I could leave out an entire bag of white and green onions, which I always forget to ask them to hold. My GI tract thanks me.
Above, my boyfriend Shawn eating his pho with chicken
I get the chicken broth with shrimp and assemble my bowl, pouring the broth over the ingredients. The soup is tasty, and I know we're here to talk about pho, but I am won over by a crispy egg roll. I have had a lot of crappy egg rolls in my life, and was expecting the usual metallic taste of days-old pork. But the pork is fresh, and the shell is flaky like a croissant. This is the only good egg roll I've ever had.
In my curiousity about pho, I visit Vietvana's website, and amid vibrant photos of pedicarts and traditional dress, I am moved by the emotional description from the owners, a young married couple.
What does heaven taste like? To husband and wife team, Dinh Tran and Khanh Dang, it’s a place where crafted meals are served on the sides of some of the busiest streets in the world. While scooters race by and pedestrians pass, buzzing in conversation, the quiet harmonious symphony of flavor found in a lovingly prepared bowl of nutritious, herbal and aromatic phở can be blissful and completely grounding.
I can feel their homesickness, their love for their hometown. I have that same love for Atlanta.
It awakens my longing to travel, unmet during these past two COVID-years.
Even as you enter the side hall at Ponce City Market, you are invited to imagine a different land, sheltered by pastel parasols. An expression of creativity, or love?
I've never been to Saigon, but if all the food there is this good, I'm adding it to my list.
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An Atlanta native, Nicole Gustin is the Founder & CEO of BiteLines, which offers walking food and art tours on the Atlanta BeltLine. She considers the BeltLine her backyard, and is excited to see how Atlanta is reinventing itself. The BiteLines blog features art, restaurants, happenings and weirdness on the Atlanta BeltLine. Share story ideas and pics at: email@example.com. Or follow on Instagram @bitelinesatl.