From the outside, Pho Ben Vietnamese Restaurant is a nondescript section of a shopping center off North Shepherd Drive.
But that doesn’t stop the lunch crowd from congregating there to enjoy Vietnamese flavors.
The inside of the space is decorated nicely, with greenery and comfortable booths and tables. During my recent lunch out at the spot, I also got firsthand experience of the great service the restaurant provides. My table had a main server, but other servers happily stopped by the table to check in or help with anything that was needed, which meant I never felt like I had to flag anyone down.
The menu has a list of different types of spring rolls and egg rolls to serve as appetizers. My lunch partner and I went with the fresh spring rolls, which included steamed pork, shrimp, rice vermicelli noodles, lettuce and bean sprouts wrapped in rice paper, and an order of the grilled chicken spring rolls, which were the same, just with chicken. Both were served with peanut sauce.
The spring rolls didn’t take long to be placed in front of us. The chicken had a distinct grilled flavor, which was good, but what really sold me was the peanut sauce. It was smooth with nutty undertones, but it wasn’t like a peanut butter. With the spring rolls, the peanut sauce added a nice roasted element. The same goes for the spring rolls with pork and shrimp.
I noticed the rice paper was a little thicker than I’m used to, making the outer layer chewier.
When deciding which pho to order, the server suggested the pho that comes with lean brisket, well-done flank, fatty brisket, soft tendon and white beef tripe because it's a popular dish. Since it has so many different cuts of beef, it also allows the customers to try a variety of what the restaurant has to offer.
All of the meat was pretty good, but my favorite was the lean brisket. It was thin and easy to eat along with the noodles. The extra meat also gave the soup an extra savory layer I enjoyed. The noodles seemed a little too overdone. Pho noodles are soft, but it was like they had sat in the broth too long.
The banh mi I tried was chargrilled chicken and veggies on French bread. The bread was fresh, soft on the inside with a crispy crust. The chicken was similar to the chicken in the spring rolls, but thicker, and the sauce it was cooked with seemed more present.
To wash it all down, I ordered milk tea. Tapioca is optional, but the restaurant was out. The milk tea had a good balance of sweet and milky, with that underlying layer of black tea. While I enjoyed it, I recommend drinking it after the meal, because its creamy, sweet flavor didn’t complement the food.
Pho Ben offered a solid lunch at a small price, and that I can always appreciate.
Pho Ben Vietnamese Restaurant
Address: 935 N. Shepherd Dr.
Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Healthy options: Yes
Star of the show: Pho