Springdale has been stepping up its foodie game, offering up a growing number of ethnic cuisines at new restaurants lately. The Springdale Taco Tour led the way by highlighting the tasty offerings of local taquerias, and R&R Curry Express brought us an Indian option with its only location outside of Fort Smith. When a friend tagged me on Facebook to let me know about So Pho Real, a brand new spot serving up Vietnamese pho (pronounced “fuh”), I knew where I’d be going for lunch the next day.
I met my friend around noon, after having to run down the street for cash – they’re still working on getting the credit card system online. The building, at the corner of Pleasant and Sunset, has housed several eateries, but none of them has lasted long. Based on the food alone, I think this one has a good chance to break that streak.
Sandy and Xay Symoungphone are the team bringing Asian fusion to town, with Sandy working the front of the house, and Xay in the kitchen. They offer a wide variety of menu items, from Korean BBQ tacos to Vietnamese pho (noodle soup), and variations on several local favorites like quesadillas and nachos.
We started off with a couple of appetizers, the bulgogi beef fries ($8.00) and sriracha and honey chicken wings ($8.00). Wikipedia tells me the word bulgogi literally means “fire meat” in Korean. It’s beef cooked on a grill. Sandy added that the sauce is what makes it special. She described it as being similar to Teriyaki, but sweeter, which we found to be true. The fries were not cut in house, but they didn’t need to be. Crispy and golden, they were a great foundation for the meat, onions and “beasty” sauce that topped them. The sauce is a mayo-based condiment, with a spice mix stirred in, and is also Sandy’s nickname. Pretty sure there’s a story there somewhere. A side of kim-chi added a little kick when included in a bite of the rest of the dish.
The wings were fried to be crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside, and the sriracha and honey sauce was very flavorful, but don’t let the word “sriracha” scare you, it was mild enough to be appreciated by those who don’t enjoy a spicy dish.
My friend ordered the steak, meatball and tendon pho, a bowl full of rice noodles, beef broth, thinly-sliced red onions and scallions. The meat in the pho is not the primary source of flavor. Instead, it is simply the mechanism by which to get the amazing broth to your mouth. The broth was delicately scented, with a wonderful aromatic flavor of Thai basil, along with the expected onion. I’m pretty sure a bowl of that broth would cure the flu.
Pho is served with a plate of herbs (basil and cilantro), lime wedges, bean sprouts, and a few slices of fresh jalapenos that you can add to the bowl to punch up the flavor. There is also a delicious beef sauce or chili oil available for those who like to try all the things and add a little heat.
For the unfamiliar, tendon meat is very tender, not chewy, but has a consistency in the mouth that is very similar to beef fat. The small bowl ($6.00 – 8.00) was plenty for one person. A large bowl ($7.00 – 9.00) would be enough to share around the table.
I decided to try the bahn mi sandwich ($8.00), a traditional Vietnamese dish. There are two options – bulgogi steak or deep-fried pork belly. Both sandwiches include pickled carrots and daikon radish, fresh cilantro, jalepenos and cucumber, and a little beasty sauce. I don’t like a sandwich that hides its ingredients in a loaf of bread, and this one was perfect. The thin bun with a crispy/soft consistency reminded me of a French baguette.
Overall, I am thrilled about this addition to my local dining options. Fresh ingredients, friendly staff and affordable prices are a sure bet for lunch or dinner. Sandy said they will be offering weekend specials in the near future, so be sure to follow them on Facebook to get the latest about their menu.
So Pho Real : 909 S. Pleasant, Springdale, AR 72762 : Hours: 11am – 3pm and 5pm – 8pm