Pho Cyclo Cafe
2414 First Ave S, 382-9256
Mon-Sat 10 am-7 pm.

Located in a light, airy warehouse space, Pho Cyclo puts you right in the mood for Vietnamese food with its gorgeously painted murals--one wall depicts the countryside, the other, city life. We began lunch with fresh spring-roll appetizers ($3 for two). Both the vegetarian tofu and the shrimp with pork had fresh ingredients put together in just the right portions and were accompanied by a delicious dipping sauce.

Pho Cyclo's signature dish, pho (beef noodle soup), is offered with choices of sliced steak, flank, fatty flank, meatballs, chicken, and tripe ($5.50 small/$6.25 large). All permutations come with a sidecar plate of fresh basil, jalapeño peppers, bean sprouts, and lime, as well as a special addition: a small dish of ginger chili sauce for either dredging pieces of meat or adding to the broth. The fresh and light broth, spiced with anise and garlic, along with the rice noodles and tender meat, keeps you dipping back into the bowl.

The rest of the menu includes rice, noodle, and stir-fry dishes featuring pork, chicken, and seafood. We enjoyed the Bun Dac Biet, a skewer of charbroiled pork alongside grilled shrimp and charbroiled meatballs over rice noodles ($7.25). The dish includes lettuce, carrot, and sprouts for a fuller flavor, and comes with a light, vinegary sauce to pour over the top.

While the menu is somewhat lacking in vegetarian options, the lemongrass tofu ($6) is both fragrant and tasty. It is a generous helping of tender tofu slices cooked in lemongrass, onion, and chili, then served over rice or noodles with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.

There are several dessert choices on the menu, but we opted for an equally sweet way to finish a meal: the Vietnamese coffee ($2.25), a strong shot of caffeine slow-filtered over condensed milk, served hot or iced.

Last tidbit: Pho Cyclo will be opening a new Broadway Avenue location soon, hopefully an equal follow-up to promising beginnings.

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