Pho Lang Thang
114 W. Elder St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202
|Hours:||Tues – Sat: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sun: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Wed-Thurs: 5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
|Price Range:||Appetizers: $3
Bahn Mi, Pho, Bun: $5 – $7
Vietnamese Coffee: $2 – $3
We have been excited about the opening of Pho Lang Thang since we started seeing them at events and Asian Cultural/Food festivals almost a year ago – and apparently everyone else has too. We’ve tried to pay Pho Lang Thang a visit three or so times within the past couple of weeks and every single time there was a two hour wait. While this may annoy some, it just tells me that the food must be darn good and well worth the wait.
And it was.
We went on a Sunday as to avoid the crowds, and even then, it was busy! Just not overly so. Upon entering the staff was friendly and told us they’d seat us soon – it only took a minute or two. Enough for me to sneak and snap a picture or two of the interior. As we were sat down our server explained that we were actually being sat in a section that didn’t belong to them, but that they used when they were busy.
The menu is simple but still has a good variety of choices. For starters you can get fried egg rolls, spring rolls, and there is also a vegan option. They have two options for Vietnamese salads (again, meat and vegan), bahn mi (sandwiches) in meat or vegetarian options, bowls of pho with meat or vegan options, and bun with meat and vegetarian. For drinks they have the usual sodas, as well as a Vietnamese limeade, a Vietnamese soy milk drink and my personal favorite – imported Vietnamese coffee. The Vietnamese coffee is served hot or iced plain or with condensed milk.
To start, we got the Cha Gio – two fried spring rolls filled with pork, mushrooms carrots and glass noodles and a dipping sauce called Nuoc Mam Pha. They were nice and crispy and the ingredients were mixed well inside them. They were crunchy, porky and very savory. The sauce was sweet and really complimented the Cha Gio really well.
The Nuoc Mam Pha is a sweet and sour fish sauce – and like most fish sauces I’ve tried, there was no detectable fish flavor or smell. It was very sweet, not spicy at all, and had a savory quality to it. Combined with the pork egg rolls and it’s a savory match made in Vietnam.
For lunch Adam got the Banh Mi Thit Nguoi (sandwich). It’s a sandwich served on a French baguette with ham, headcheese (a loaf/jelly of face & head meat) and pate topped with garlic butter mayo, pickled daikon, carrots, cucumber, cilantro and optional jalapenos. For a comparatively small looking sandwich Adam actually thought it was really filling. One of the owners, David Le, noticed the server had brought chili sauce and hoisin sauce but no soy sauce, and insisted on bringing some since he said the sandwich was better with it. It honestly was really good before it, but the soy sauce did make it a little better. It was my first time trying headcheese and I have to admit it was good. Although, I guess you get the head part in ground beef and whatnot anyways – it’s just not stated so blatantly in the name that we conveniently forget that.
I got the Bun Thit Nuong (Vermicelli Noodles) with beef – you have an option of beef, chicken, pork or fried pork spring roll. Essentially it’s a bowl of vermicelli noodles with lemongrass grilled meat, picked daikon, carrots, lettuce, bean sprouts, cucumber, herbs and crushed peanuts with the Nuoc Mam Pha on the side. I tried it first without the sauce and, while delicious, the noodles really needed that sauce. After liberally applying the sauce and stirring it up the dish was complete. The lemongrass grilled ground beef patties were delicious and had wonderful flavors. No propane taste here, the herbs they used to cook it in were stellar.
I mustn’t forget, we also had the hot Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk. Vietnamese coffee has always had a special place with us, along with real Ethiopian coffee. Special grinds and methods of make it somewhat different from normal coffee – adding anticipation while the coffee and water work their magic together and watching it get ready.. It’s a different experience. The flavor of the Vietnamese coffee at Pho Lang Thang is one of, if not the best I’ve had so far. It’s a bit strong, but the sweetness from the condensed milk offsets it. I also like too that they don’t put an obscene amount of condensed milk like some restaurants I’ve been to have done. It was just the right amount.
Pho Lang Thang was a great experience when we went, and we look forward to going back more often. The food was delicious, quick and the staff was all really friendly. The only things I would suggest they change is more, slightly bigger napkins and doing a better job cleaning tables. The napkins we got were more like what you’d put under a cup (speaking of, the bottle cups were a nice touch.) Not really great for wiping your hands after a sandwich. While they do wipe down the tables after each use, it’s kind of half-heartedly. I wish the folks at Pho Lang Thang all the best – they certainly picked a great location and the food is fantastic.
The “Pho” part of their name obviously is in reference to the food, however the “Lang Thang” part is a bit more interesting. “Lang Thang” is what owners David Le, Duy and Bao Nguyen heard as a complaint from their parents often, loosely meaning that they enjoy hanging out and enjoying life, and could also be used to suggest you’re a slacker. Now, Lang Thang is not only being used in the name of their restaurant but is also reflected in their philosophy and how they run it.
Now it’s your turn. What do you think of Pho Lang Thang? Think we got it right? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Want more pictures? Well, we’ve got them – and bigger now too! Check out our Facebook gallery for Pho Lang Thang to see more pictures of the restaurant, food, and Findlay Market.
Update: Pho Lang Thang is now serving dinners on Wednesday and Thursday nights from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Each week they feature a different random dish that you can only get those two nights. They post ahead of time the dinner special on their Facebook page.
Verdict: You’d Be Crazy Not To Try It
The food is absolutely delicious, reasonably priced, and if you get there before or after the lunch rush (or just on a Sunday at noon like us) there wont be a bothersome crowd. Alternatively, they also do take-out and accept called-in orders. Don’t do meat? That’s okay, they have vegetarian and vegan dishes too.