Cape Fear Foodie: Pho You Should Know

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - New year, new me, same old food blog. But hey, at least you’re here and along for another year full of restaurant spotlights. I really enjoyed launching Cape Fear Foodie last year, I only aim to lift up the restaurants and don’t provide any kind of review of a place (other than nice food pictures and a hint of what you should order).

As for my New Year’s resolution, I’m going to make a real effort to get out and about in the region and try new places. And as resolutions naturally go, I offer you a restaurant in Wilmington! That lasted long huh? (All jokes aside, I’ll be hopping around starting next week).

But after the holidays, and all the treats and feasts, I wanted something a little lighter but packed with flavor. Look no further than Pho Cafe on Market Street.

It’s a tiny spot, with both indoor and outdoor dining for maybe 20 people. But don’t let appearances fool you, this place does a brisk take-out business and while I was there it was essentially a revolving door of customers grabbing their orders and heading home. I have heard a lot about Pho Cafe for a while, and the packed dining room and steady customer flow confirmed it’s a great place for Vietnamese food.

Now if you’re anything like my mom, who knows nothing of Vietnamese food (then again you’re a foodie so you know exactly what I’m talking about) let’s go over some basics of what Pho Cafe has to offer.

1) Pho (pronounced fuh), is a rice noodle soup made with savory broths, and can be loaded with various proteins and veggies, fresh greens, bean sprouts and jalapenos.

2) Bahn Mi (pronounced bun-me), is a sandwich made with a fresh baguette and stuffed with a variety of pickled vegetables like carrots, daikon and cucumbers, along with fresh cilantro and jalapenos, and can feature mayo or Sriracha. It can include a protein but doesn’t have to.

3) Boba Tea (or bubble tea) is a kind of flavored tea drink that includes tapioca pearls (that are house made at Pho Cafe) and can help tone down the heat from the food you’re devouring.

Alright, now that that’s cleared up, let’s get down to the food.

First off, let me say this place is cheap. Really, really cheap. In a town where it can be nauseating ordering a $16 cheeseburger, Pho Cafe is a breath of fresh air (especially after the expensive holiday season). All of the pho runs $7 - $9 dollars, the bahn mi sandwiches are all about $4 and the various other items are all under $10. My entire meal was $20 even, unbelievable.

For starters I grabbed a Vietnamese Pancake, which is a crepe that is packed with pork belly, shrimp and bean sprouts. You’re meant to tear a piece off, put inside a fresh lettuce leaf, toss in some greens, roll it up and dip in the given sauce. It’s very light and I thought it was delicious.

Then I went for a Pork Meatball Bahn Mi. If you have never had one of these style of sandwiches, I think they are simply the best. The homemade bread is crispy on the outside, but soft on the inside. The pickled veggies and fresh greens give a great crunch and tanginess to the dish. Then toss in your protein of choice (in this case chopped up pork meatballs) with a little mayo and some chili oil or Sriracha and the whole sandwich is a flavor bomb.

Finally I started in on the Beef Pho. The sumptuous broth, the perfectly soft rice noodles, and slices of beef was the essence of umami. Plus throw in the bean sprouts, basil, cilantro and jalapenos with a healthy dose of chili oil and bang...it set my soul on fire! (in a perfectly good way). Unfortunately after scarfing down the pancake and bahn mi, I had little room left for the pho.

Not to worry, the nice wait staff gave me two containers to take it home, my friends only took home the broth, that’s literally all they wanted. It’s that good.

I didn’t have any of the boba tea, but my friend Emily had three different ones while there. It looked great and she liked all the flavors she tried.

Of course there are no shortage of pho options around Wilmington, I’ve been to some others and liked them as well. But on this night I chose to visit Pho Cafe on Market Street, after passing it by for years. I can honestly say it will take some serious self-control to keep from going back every time I drive by from now on. You should give it a try too (if you’re not already a huge fan).

IF YOU GO:

Pho Cafe is located at 3926 Market St #201, Wilmington, NC 28403

Do you recommend a restaurant? Or know of a best kept secret that you want the rest of the Cape Fear to know about? Shoot me an email at corey.preece@gray.tv and I would love to feature your selection. Cheers!

Copyright 2022 WECT. All rights reserved.