Pho Quyen: Absolutely Sweet Little Saigon

We're now reaching a point in Little Saigon's history where the old-school places are slowly but surely changing. Some are closing shop; others are moving to richer environs in South County or the San Gabriel Valley. Others are getting face-lifts that are finally updating their design schemes to this century, instead of the garish 1980s-era designs that date back to the enclaves' origins.

And then you find a spot such as Pho Quyen that stubbornly, wonderfully won't change. There are no 1.5ers or second-generation Viets; this is a place for their parents and uncles. While the radio is usually tuned to KOST-FM, the only reading material is Little Saigon's many dailies and weeklies. There is no need to change—Pho Quyen is on the outskirts of Westminster, committed to the old school. And of all the old-school pho places in Little Saigon, Pho Quyen is definitely one of the quirkiest. For one, it's not usually thought of as a pho place despite its name—it makes its money on to-go orders, with steam trays of various meats, vegetables, soups and other goodies kept warm under heat lamps, plus a counter filled with packaged, made-that-morning foods from goi cuon to pate chaud to an awesome, crunchy, liver jerky-spiked papaya salad that zings with tartness and the metallic allure of offal. Vietnamese families love this spot for its fast, cheap specials (25 delicious pork eggrolls for $10? Cam on!), the faded pictures above the register boasting of its talents. Another menu lists all of its bánh mì options—in this era of bánh mì inflation, you can still order a fine sandwich for $2. And the pouring of the powerful cafe sua da approaches the cascades of Niagara every morning.

Pho Quyen's actual pho? Only three options—pho tai, pho ga and the pho with springy meatballs in them. Stick with the beef pho, which finds a massive slice of beef as thin as the prongs on a fork enveloping noodles that are just a tad toothier than al dente. The broth is beefy; the $5 small bowl, gargantuan. Get a serving to stave off the flu bug that's going around again (as I did last week), and it'll be as effective as a silver bullet on your choice of supernatural creature. The rest of the sit-down menu here isn't much—rice dishes, some bún bowls and a good porridge. So swing by for the pho, load up on the to-go meals, and cram this place while it's as retro as $1 bánh mìs.


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