Located at the corner of Dundas West and Howard Park, just barely on the outskirts of Roncesvalles, this little place is home to some of the city’s best (if not the best) pho and a variety of other Vietnamese dishes.
Although not much to look at, with small rickety tables and chairs, the atmosphere in Pho Nho is always entertaining. There's a huge, outdated big-screen TV that sits next to the bar, often playing sports or CP24, and there are two somewhat newer and flatter screens mounted on the wall that also air CP24 or, on occasion, the Discovery Channel.
During the summer, a front patio with a couple tables opens for guests to sit out front and people-watch in a tight space. There's also a larger side patio that backs onto a little side street. This side patio faces a Dome Depot, where the smell of freshly cut wood wafts its way onto the street. The cedar smell is quickly overtaken by the pungent smells pouring out of this cozy kitchen, where you can see older women cooking away while the restaurant steadily fills — no matter what day of the week.
The young women that work at Pho Nho are great and always smiling and telling their regulars at the bar some funny stories while preparing take-out orders for the stream of people who come and go. If you come for take-out, it can be hard to leave, as the beers here are very cheap (a pitcher of Alexander Keith’s for $13.30) and the servers are good at reminding you of this option.
As the name states, this restaurant serves pho — and many different kinds at that. But server Donna Trinh says their specialty has to be their vermicelli noodles with grilled pork, spring rolls and shrimp (the number 71 with shrimp.)
Donna has worked at Pho Nho since its opening. Her brother, John Trinh, opened the restaurant eight years ago, and it seems business has been pretty consistent. Chatting with Donna, she smiles, thinking how to word their success.
“We do the best we can every day and do the same routine,”
It’s this mentality that has allowed the restaurant to win the love of regulars from the neighbourhood. Sure enough, Pho Nho has many regulars. The crowd is as mixed as it gets when it comes to ethnicity, age, and gender. The atmosphere and cheap beers make it easy to overeat on any given night — at almost any time. You can have dinner at Pho Nho until 2:00 a.m. on most nights.
The spring rolls on the menu are delicious, and you can request them without meat for vegetarians. They're crispy and a good size, although I admit we ended up ordering a second order… Their vegetarian pho (#102) is filled with vegetables from cabbage to potatoes, and it includes deep-fried tofu and a flavourful broth. The Cantonese noodles (#97) have one of the best sauces I've had in Asian cuisine, and they cover the crunchy-then-soft noodles with a mass of vegetables and your choice of tofu, shrimp, or meat.
Pho by Instant Vantage
Almost every dish is under $8.00 but worth much more. Because of the friendly staff and dimly lit bar feeling, Pho Nho succeeds as a casual place to have dinner — and a very affordable one!