On any given weekday during the lunchtime hour, you’ll find a small, hole in the wall restaurant nestled between the Kauai Bowling Center and another eatery on Rice Street, packed with county and state workers filling their empty stomachs with warm bowls of golden, silky broth.
The robust broth is made daily and added to it are moist pieces of chicken and your choice of bean sprouts, mint, jalapeno pepper slices, tamari, siracha and a squeeze of fresh lime.
Become a regular and the waiters will memorize your order and greet you with an enthusiastic, “chicken noodle,” or whatever it is you like.
But Pho Kauai is much more than just pho. A quick perusal of the menu will reveal a variety of fried rice, pad Thai, stir-fries spring rolls and salads.
The service is quick and the food is delicious, made fresh daily, with love and attention to detail.
Lovingly referred to by locals as Pho’s, I would never have tried the restaurant myself because prior to my first taste of the delicious soup, I’ve never liked pho. Now, my week is not complete with at least one, big steaming bowl of the beautiful broth.
Vietnamese beef noodle soup is served with bean sprout, basil, hot green pepper and lime. An order ranges from $7.45 to $8.25.
If it’s more than soup you’re after, rice plates with grill pork or chicken, shrimp or beef are in the $7 to $9 range.
One of the house specials is Vietnamese fried rice with egg, shrimp, chicken, peas and pup-chong for $8.25. Fried Rice with grilled shrimp runs $9.25.
Appetizers like shrimp rolls, fried calamari and Vietnamese deep fried egg rolls start at $3.75.
The only time I’ve ever been disappointed with Pho’s is when they recently closed for a week to remodel their kitchen.
“YES! It’s the day before payday and I have just enough money for a bowl of soup. NOOOOOO, they’re closed!”
The next week, owner Keith Do greeted me happily, “what did you do last week with no soup?”
Another favorite dish is their lemongrass chicken. Served hot over white, steamed rice, my husband only slightly complains when I ask him for a bite. He never asks me why I don’t order something besides the soup.
Last week, Do told me they were so much more than pho. He showed me a fried Cornish game hen, a serving of fried rice and recommended several other items on the menu.
“But nothing will satisfy you now because you have a taste for the soup,” he said.
I responded by saying that perhaps one day I’ll try the fried rice. He just smiled.
They close at 3 p.m. and reopen for dinner. The dinner crowd is a bit different from the lunchtime crowd. Mostly local families who know what a gem Pho’s is.
At a recent event I covered for The Garden Island, a woman came up to me stating she recognized me. I told her I was a journalist and cover many events on Kauai, so she probably saw me at one of them.
No, that wasn’t it.
“I remember now! I saw you eating noodles at Pho’s! I travel all the way from Hanapepe to eat at Pho’s,” she said.
I laughed telling her I was wishing to eat at Pho’s that night, but they would be closed by the time I arrived back in Lihue.
She laughed, stating that perhaps she’ll see me there again.
That’s when I knew I had a problem. An addiction to good soup. Pho real.
Bethany Freudenthal, crime, courts and county reporter, can be reached at 652-7891 or firstname.lastname@example.org.