Let me begin by saying that I never understood nor appreciated the Louisiana fascination with transforming words containing a long “o” into “eaux.” I assume it comes from Cajun names like Boudreaux and Thibodeaux, and I have to admit that I see this phenomenon far more frequently in Baton Rouge (LSU) than anywhere else, but it still appears in New Orleans from time to time and when it does, it itches at me like a fleabite on my ankle. It’s kind of like saying “ax” when you mean “ask” or using “there” when you really mean “they’re” or “their.” I realize it’s a fun way of adding a Louisiana accent to common words or phrases and I really should get over myself already, but what can I say? It bugs me.
So, when I first saw Pho Bistreaux opening up on the corner of Oak and Carrollton, the name immediately turned me off. I thought to myself “Eaux neax!” (Okay, I’m lying. I didn’t think that but I thought that line would be funny.) The name was only the tip of the iceberg, though, considering that corner restaurant has changed from being an Indian food buffet, to a terrible “New York-style” deli (that would have appalled any New Yorker) and a steamed burger joint that was open for all of a few weeks…if that…due to some horrific neon signage that practically defaced the historic building in which the restaurant was housed. It was becoming one of those cursed locations where businesses never last and I was afraid Pho Bistreaux would soon become the latest victim.
Boy howdy, was I wrong!
Let me say that since my first time there a month or so ago, I have returned an obscene number of times because at long last, Oak Street has a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant and if I can keep them in business by my patronage alone, I will. But I don’t think I have anything to worry about. Since my first trip, this corner restaurant has been busy from the time they open their doors to the second they close. It’s that good.
Since I have been to Pho Bistreaux so many times, with camera in hand, it is hard to pinpoint one trip over another, so let me just tell you about some of the tasty dishes I’ve enjoyed thus far. And no, I have still not had everything on the menu, but that day will soon arrive.
I should probably start with the pho. I’ve only enjoyed the filet mignon, but John enjoyed the meatiest oxtail pho he’s ever experienced and Anne (my pho buddy) delighted in their wonderful meatball pho. The broth is rich with sharp, earthy spices and served with huge plates filled with fresh herbs and veggies to add (or not) to your soup. The prices are only a tad higher than I am used to, but the bowls are big, delicious and filling, so no complaints here.
For appetizers, we’ve tried their grilled pork sliders, deliciously seasoned and only $5 for two, and crispy egg rolls, both regular and “Bistreaux” style which is wrapped with a different type of rice paper that makes for an extra crisp and bubbly shell. We have also enjoyed the New Orleans Roll which combines the best of both worlds, stuffing a crispy egg roll into a spring roll wrapper alongside fresh herbs, vegetables and vermicelli noodles, and served with a super-thick peanut sauce for dipping.
Other entrees we’ve inhaled include a grilled pork “bun” or vermicelli bowl, grilled shrimp “com” or rice plate and a combination banh mi with grilled pork and pate. I think they might put crack in their grilled shrimp because it is quickly becoming one of my favorites and I find it very difficult to order anything else as of late. They also make a delightful flan, believe it or not, and almost every time I am in there, I see at least two other tables order it for dessert, aside from our table of course. Everything has been so delicious and priced so right, that it’s a wonder we don’t eat there everyday. All I can say is “Please don’t ever geaux, Pho Bistreaux!”