Breakfast of champions. Photo by Amy Theilig
Breakfast of champions. Photo by Amy Theilig

What the Pho?

Who says you can't eat Vietnamese for breakfast? Certainly not the Vietnamese, many of whom probably look down their noses at what you non-Vietnamese consume early in the morn—your Grape-Nuts, your huevos rancheros, your Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruitys. Especially your Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruitys. Perv.

Let it hereby be declared without rebuttal that Vietnamese food makes a wonderful roll-outta-bed repast, not solely because I know everything, but because I got volunteered to write this food column based on what happened when I was out ill recently. Weekly food editor/three-fourths-of-the-paper writer Gustavo Arellano responded to one of my rambling e-mails with this directive:

"Eat pho, Matt."

(So nice that it's not the usual staff directive: "Eat shit, Matt.")

Arellano's instructions were especially welcome because I'd been wanting to try the new pho place that had opened near my Costa Mesa abode. I took that advice, ate mucho soupy concoction at Pho 99 Noodles & Grill, and miraculously got better, thanks in no small part to the extra application of green peppers that drained my sinuses (and stained my favorite night-night pillow) lickety-split. Once well, I returned several times for the yummerific sandwiches on French rolls—filling, inexpensive and the perfect hand-held device with which to sop up buckets of pho.

When a hole came up in the food coverage, I stepped right in to offer my new favorite pho joint. Un-pho-tunately, between the time I got volunteered—a close cousin to the Latin American junta phenomenon known as "getting disappeared"—to write a review and the time said review was due, I discovered Pho 99 is a chain, and the only thing the Weekly disdains more than chains is stupid, stupid wars. So I got agreed (see "got volunteered/got disappeared") to head the opposite direction on Baker Street to shine the Vietnam Pearl, an independent joint I've heard nothing but good things about but had never had the pleasure of visiting.

This review was due Monday, so being a diligent journalist I put my visit off until Sunday. Mmmm, a Sunday lunch of French roll sandwich dunked in pho and washed down with a stiff French coffee.

Vietnam Pearl is closed on Sundays.

Eat shit, Matt.

So I went first thing Monday morning, 9:30ish, but I did not order a sammich because I'd be eating breakfast, not lunch. Strips of chicken with egg loaf has many required breakfast elements, no? But without rice because that'd be weird at this hour. A veggie spring roll infused with tofu chunks would provide more breakfast-protein punch. But I still needed pho, so I went for the shrimp variety, being careful to control the spicier ingredients so as not to snot my colleagues at the Monday-morning staff meeting. Naturally, everything was washed down with iced French coffee. It was delish!

But better than my beloved Pho 99? Who the pho knows? It's all good, baby. They are my new Rite Aid and Sav-On pharmacies. When one's closed, I can hit the other. If only we lived in a world where our HMOs picked up the pho tabs.

VIETNAM PEARL, 1215 BAKER ST., STE. B, COSTA MESA, (714) 540-2212. OPEN MON.-FRI., 9:30 A.M.-7:30 P.M.; SAT., 11 A.M.-7 P.M. DINNER FOR TWO, $10-$20. CASH ONLY. NO ALCOHOL.


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