Going to this Kingsway institution is as comforting as putting on a favourite coat. The windows are foggy from of all the steam coming from the bowls that sit at the tables. There is pretty well always a line, but it moves quickly because the servers take orders in drill-sergeant fashion and get the pho orders out at a pace that would stun most fast-food joints. Bowls of pho come in small and large sizes, but let it be known that the large is, well, really large. The pho in the bowl is meaty, complex and oh so wonderful. The steak and brisket is the go-to option, though you can add meatballs and tripe if you wish. Break off some basil leaves and drop them in, add a few dollops of hot sauce, and you’ve got one of the best warm-up meals in the city.
But, if soup isn’t your thing, try the vermicelli dishes, mixing sweet and heat with shrimp, beef and the crunch of peanuts.-Steven Sandor
11443 Kingsway Ave., 780-761-1989
2. HOANG LONG
If a long line is a good sign, then you know you’re in for a good meal right away at Hoang Long. Even for a weekday lunch, the lineup at the 109th Street restaurant runs 10 to 15 deep. Thankfully, the line moves fast. Before you know it, you’re digging into tasty Vietnamese cuisine.
The grilled chicken skewers are tender and juicy with just enough char. The accompanying peanut sauce has a pleasant hint of curry. The pho at Hoang Long has a depth of flavour you don’t often find, with notes of cinnamon and star anise shining through in the broth. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try the H? Ti?u M? Tho, filled with big chunks of squid, shrimp and imitation crab swimming in a lighter broth. –Glenn Cook