What the pho? Finding underrated Vietnamese chow

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Chicken vermicelli

by Eric Ginsburg

The phenomenon of restaurants that serve excellent international cuisine inside of grocery stores isn’t limited to Winston-Salem.

Most of the restaurants by Super G, Greensboro’s premier international market, flank the grocery store’s sides: a Korean restaurant, a Chinese food court and, until relatively recently, Mongolian, Peruvian and Salvadoran restaurants. But like the unnamed taquería inside Compare Foods on Silas Creek Parkway and Thai Sawatdee in the Harris Teeter on Cloverdale Avenue in Winston-Salem, a Vietnamese restaurant managed to land inside Super G.

Easily the best-named Vietnamese option in town, Grill ‘N Pho U is also the most underrated Vietnamese joint in the Triad.

Everybody knows about Pho Hien Vuong, a hallmark so popular that the owners recently expanded into the adjacent storefront. Any food fan worth their salt is aware of Banh Mi Saigon’s cheap and delicious Vietnamese sandwiches. And most aficionados of the cuisine will point out Van Loi and Binh Minh, or maybe even the banh mi at Pakse Café, next. But nobody talks about Grill ‘N Pho U.

Maybe it’s the cheesy name, or maybe people don’t allow time on grocery trips to stop in and try a bubble tea, gyoza fried dumplings or an entrée. But more likely, with plenty of strong contenders representing the southeast Asian nation, people don’t feel the need to look elsewhere. That’s a mistake.

You should see the size of the “delight crispy noodle” entrée, with its deep-fried egg noodles and stir-fried vegetables. It may even taste better as leftovers, once the sauce has really taken hold. And the spicy beef pho is so hot that it isn’t to be messed with — rookies should order a regular pho option and add the spice yourself.

The pho can compete with the other Vietnamese restaurants in town, including I ♥ Pho and Pho Hien Vuong, but the best thing on the menu may be the chicken vermicelli, a cold rice-noodle dish that comes with cucumber, lettuce, bean sprouts, carrots, a little cilantro, peanuts and pickled daikon radishes.

The presentation alone is gorgeous — unexpected for a somewhat makeshift space inside a grocery store — with ingredients grouped separately in a large white bowl atop the noodles. Even though it’s plenty of food, the combination of ingredients doesn’t sit as heavily as some of the other choices, but the dish deserves its highest marks for the marvelous taste.

The banh mi sandwiches, of which there are four options, aren’t as spicy as those at Pakse, nor are they as cheap as the other choices in the Gate City. That doesn’t detract from the taste, though the lower prices and bevy of sandwiches at Banh Mi Saigon put it ahead.

Skip the barley tea, available in a self-serve container near the counter, unless you know what you’re getting into; a friend accurately compared the taste to oatmeal water.

The Japanese udon noodle soup
The Japanese udon noodle soup

The menu lists several bushido grill selections, including five teriyaki dishes. Grill ‘N Pho U has chow fun noodles as well, and a delicious fried-plantain appetizer for $2. It might seem counterintuitive to order Japanese food at a Vietnamese joint, but the udon noodle soup is very satisfying. Even straight up, without the tempura shrimp or large pork cutlet jutting out, it’s memorable, though the two meat options likely only enhance the vibrantly colored vegetable and noodle mix.

Plenty of the people who come through Grill ‘N Pho U are looking only for takeout, a reasonable choice especially for people who are primarily in the vicinity for groceries. But take the time to stop in and sit — table service is an option, though sometimes slow.

Since I first tried the restaurant about a month ago, I’ve managed to sample seven different menu items and have never been let down, vowing to return for the vermicelli, udon, crispy noodles and pho — in that order. I’m pretty sure once you partake, you’ll be an ambassador for this under-the-radar Vietnamese restaurant, too.

 Visit Grill ‘N Pho U inside Super G Mart at 4927 W. Market St. (GSO) or call 336.763.0704.