Pho Today, a new Vietnamese restaurant, has opened at Tinseltown in the space formerly occupied by McAlister’s Deli. Pho used to be an uncommon dish in Jacksonville, but the last five years have seen a number of new restaurants specializing in this traditional Vietnamese meat, broth and noodle soup. While the most popular one might be Bowl of Pho on Old Baymeadows Road, Pho Today could possibly give them a run for their money.
Upon entering the restaurant, a glance around will reveal much of the same atmosphere lingers from MacAllister’s, with the exception of some new paint and bamboo on one wall. The atmosphere is not very “zen.”
However, seating was ample and service was quick, making this a convenient lunch spot. Take out orders are placed at the counter, but dine-in customers receive table service. Our server recommended the grilled pork spring rolls. Our order arrived quickly with two rolls and a side dish of pepper-topped broth for dipping. The grilled pork inside the rolls was flavorful and moist, perfectly accented by fresh cilantro.
The menu offers a variety of pho selections with differing meat choices. It was unclear what might be found in the Pho Special, but a quick review of the pho choices reveals some contain tripe, which I personally shy away from.
I’m not an expert on Vietnamese cuisine, and I played it relatively safe by ordering pho with rare beef. The broth was flavorful, but not too salty. A bountiful plate of assorted additions including basil, cilantro, bean sprouts and lime accompanied our bowls. A small bowl is only $6.95 at lunch and contains an ample portion. (I witnessed someone receiving an extra large bowl, and it’s size was comparable to a kitchen sink.)
The meat on top of the pho is quite rare, but the broth was steaming and quickly cooked it further. The noodles were tender, but not too mushy, and a splash of Sriracha sauce gave it just the right kick.
This was just a quick lunch stop, and I didn’t have an opportunity to explore the rest of the menu, but for now I’d say try Pho Today.