Pho’s Saigon Noodle House is open; Newell Avenue’s second Vietnamese noodle restaurant

Is it time for a Walnut Creek Vietnamese noodle shop smackdown? What with two Vietnamese noodle restaurants within about a block of each other?  
Pho Saigon opened last week in the space in Newell Place that formerly housed Taxi’s. It is  part of a chain of Vietnamese noodle houses, and is named for the classic, casual Vietnamese dish, pho (pronounced “fuh”), which typically consists of white rice noodles served in a clear broth, along with variations of seasonings, vegetables, and meat.
Pho Saigon is a long time coming (I snapped this photo in July). A Yelp reader heaps praise on it, nearly a week following its grand opening last Thursday: “Woo hoo! Just what Walnut Creek needs, authentic Vietnamese food. … The menu is extensive with pho, rice dishes and drinks. They served us chrysathemum tea and even had spicy bun hue. …A little more expensive than your typical hole in the wall pho shop but worth it. Their ” small bowl” is actually a large at most other restaurants.
However, another Yelp reader said: “This is exactly what Walnut Creek does not need. Although I don’t like all of them, there are already plenty of Vietnamese restaurants across all different niches and pricepoints in Walnut Creek and based on my experience with Pho Saigon, I don’t expect any of them to be worried.”
One of those other Vietnamese restaurants is another noodle shop, R&J Noodle east on Newell Avenue in the Terrace Shops.
One reader on Yelp glowed about it: “I freaking love this place! The only bad thing I can say is that they are NEVER open! They have a great pork sandwich and their soup is incredible, my husband and I usually order both and end up taking home leftovers. The price point is totally reasonable for the amount of food they give you. I also like the owners, they are very friendly and hospitable…total mom and pop business, and I love that.”
Other readers, however, were not so enthusiastic. “We’ve been here three times because we just can’t shake that ‘we really want this place to be good’ feeling. The place seems like its family run, and the are really friendly. The prices are pretty typical of Walnut Creek, I would even say its better priced than most. Unfortunately the food is just kind of blah.”
Well, dear Crazy readers, if you’ve been to either and want to submit your own reviews, please be my guest.  I expect I’ll be giving both a try in the next few weeks. 

12 thoughts on “Pho’s Saigon Noodle House is open; Newell Avenue’s second Vietnamese noodle restaurant

  1. I live in Saigon and have Pho for breakfast every morning. When I'm back in Concord every year I skip the Pho in the Bay Area because it just doesn't measure up to what they offer in Saigon. And the prices are far too high. A big bowl of Pho in Saigon will cost you about 40 cents.
    Hoa Binh,


  2. Hi Greg,
    Would love to hear about Saigon sometime and what you're doing there. My husband and I went there in the 90s. Actually, it was kinda, sorta our honeymoon. We were living in Bangkok, but did a tour of Laos, Cambodia, Saigon. Always wanted to go back to Vietnman. Of course, we saw the tourist version…

    I had the same sort of reaction to Thai food when we moved back to the US. It just wasn't the same as you get on the street or in some riverside restaurant in the country of origin. So, I didn't eat Thai food for a few years…


  3. It's great place to go, especially with the recent rainy days. The servers are friendly and actually wants our business. We used to go to the one in Pleasant Hill (and Pacheco), but portions are getting reduced and I don't know why the waiter is just so pissed off all the time. This place in Walnut Creek will definately do well!


  4. Looking forward to trying it! I used to work in San Jose where I discovered some fabulous pho. Da Lat's pho is our go-to soup when someone in the family is sick (don't worry, we send a healthy family member to get takeout). It's good but it doesn't compare to some of the places in the south bay.


  5. Hi SM,

    Thanks for the Pho article.

    I have visited Vietnam only once, maybe 2004 or so. Also went to Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, China on many occasions. The food was great in Hanoi, Saigon, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei and Bangkok. If we add the cost of transportation to Asia to the cost of meals, the Walnut Creek places are far more afordable than flying to Vietnam or the other countries with their fine cuisines.

    I will visit both of the places on Newell, compare them to Da Lat, and get back to you. Pho is very healthy food and you can add spices to your own level of pleasure.


  6. I have been living and involved in the teaching of English, mostly in Saigon for more than 20 years. I go back to Concord each year for about a month and visit family and friends.
    I've traveled everywhere in Viet Nam and can say that the Pho is different all throughout the country. But you will find it in reataurants and on the sidewalk and even street vendors pushing a Pho cart. I can even get it delivered.
    And actually there are decent hamburgers but not as good as the ones I make on my grill on the terrace. Usually Australian beef with a bit of pork.
    No matter what you say, a good bowl of Pho is a good way to start the day.


  7. Feb 28, 8:58 pm here:

    Went to Saigon Noodle House for Rare Beef Pho. Simplest possible dish and therefore a good test of the restaurant IMHO.

    The “small” bowl was massive and beyond my capacity to finish, However, I concentrated on the broth before seasoning it – OK, fine. Then I tasted the rice noodles – the texture was fine – they sucked up off my chopsticks in an agreeable way. The accompanying tray of bean sprouts, pappers and basil was fresh and crispy. I distributed them into the Pho and added the additional red chile seasonings available with hoisin(?) sauce.
    Upon sampling these, I gradually realized that I had a dish for two!
    I will go back. The service was very kind. Da Lat could learn from that.
    I will now go to visit the other Newell noodle place to get an opinion of it.
    Thanks SM for challenging us to do a restaurant reviewing task at lunchtime, among our other pursuits. I love living in the Creek.


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