For car-less souls like me, downtown living is the only option in PDX. Yet food-wise, Eastside options are much greater—especially on rainy days when I’m craving pho, that beefy Vietnamese noodle soup number. Other than Silk in the Pearl District (which I enjoy immensely, but for which one must dress up a bit), there have been no decent non-food cart options for pho in Downtown, Northwest, or the Pearl District. On the Eastside, there are dozens.
This fall, all changed when Toast and Pho opened in the space formerly home to the short-lived Biscuits Cafe at 103 NW 21st Avenue. Based on my first two visits, I’m already counting all the Zipcar cash I’ll save each month as a result of having this restaurant located within stumbling distance from my downtown box in the sky.
Like Japanese ramen, what characterizes good pho from great pho is the quality of broth, and Toast and Pho’s is as outstanding as Pho Hung or Pho Oregon. My friend Michael Zusman describes it best: "deeply beefy and ever-so-fragrant with star anise, cinnamon and goodness knows what else."
The meat accompaniments (On one visit meatballs and another tendon, flank steak, brisket, and tripe) were well portioned and of good quality while the vegetable accoutrements (basil, lime, mung bean sprouts, and jalapeno) were of the utmost freshness. My only complaint was a case of soggy noodles on the first visit, but thankfully, they had been remedied by the second.
A large bowl is $7.95, which is a bit more expensive than what you’d find on the Eastside, where rent is half as cheap. There are other menu options as well, including Bun, various noodle dishes, and traditional Vietnamese dishes. Once I tire of the excellent broth (I’m gearing up for my third visit this afternoon), I’m sure I’ll try them. I’ll post a photo later this weekend.