by Michelle Byrd
So it was the decision between Subway, the old standby, and a restaurant a few doors down called Pho 50. I was on my lunch break during some teacher training, and if you know much about teaching, then you know that teachers do not get much of a lunch break and certainly not one that would facilitate interacting with any sunlight. (Okay, enough bitterness.) This explains exactly why I chose Pho 50 over Subway. When I can get out and experience something on a workday, Subway moves to the back burner “fo sho.”
Yes, I still looked like the nerd I am when I brought in a stack of essays to grade. I mean, seriously. Subway or Pho 50, I would’ve brought them in, and I’ve brought stacks of essays with me so many places–nail salons, restaurants, malls, even the movies and on vacation– that if things go awry (in the way of a crazy ketchup packet or a wobbly cup of coffee), then you can certainly find me standing at the copy machine in the morning ready to make a copy of the stained piece. It ain’t much, but at least the copied version is free of any food remnants. Honestly and surprisingly, this hasn’t happened many times, and it didn’t happen at Pho 50 either.
What did happen was a parade in my mouth. It might’ve been because I wasn’t expecting as much as I got–and not in quantity but in quality. Now by the time I’d finished, I’d had more than enough. ‘Tis a shame because I was totally planning on ordering a bubble tea. (If you haven’t ever had one of these, you must . . . immediately.) Anyhow, here’s what arrived at my table only minutes after my order, delivered to me by a man wearing a blue shirt sleeves who came all the way from the 70’s just to do it:
First came a dainty-sized plate overflowing with mung bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, thin slices of jalapeno, and a small lime wedge. I was getting a little excited. I LLOOOVVVEEE putting toppings and sauces on things. Someone–maybe my dad–used to get irritated with me because I’d put ketchup on meat, steak particularly. Um, yum . . . back then. I don’t do that now, I guess.
Then arrived a medium-sized bowl of deliciously and perfectly seasoned broth filled with thin noodles (maybe rice? seemed to make sense), tender slices of brisket and thin, meaty slices of flank steak, the #6. Part of me wished I could tell you what they used to season the broth, but there is a bigger part of me that is totally fine not knowing. Some things are not worth reproducing. Removing the mystery to everything reduces the joy in life.
While eating, I felt pathetic, ravenous, enlightened and overjoyed. The pathetic is for talking to myself while eating my food, the ravenous is because I never stopped once to actually grade one of those essays, the enlightened is because I’d found this place in a strip mall, and I have lots of preconceived notions about strip malls, and the overjoyed is because I’d found this place in a strip mall, and it helped me shed my notion about all strip mall food outlets . . . well, a little anyway.
The walls are fairly bare, the waiters are down-to-business, the cash is collected at the counter (which doesn’t happen enough anymore, I say), the yogurt machine stands alone on the linoleum floor. Nothing fancy. Something delicious. Oh, and my bowl o’ plenty was only $6.50 with tax. It was like I was living in the late 90’s again. Oh, that reminds me: they were playing American music, and Celine Dion and the Backstreet Boys came over the speakers. That part of the late 90’s I could do without. For all other things, I say, “Thumbs up!”
Pho 50 is located in Falls Church, Va. I have reviewed it based on cost, ease of access and on my particular dish. If you want super fancy, this isn’t the place, but if you want a hearty lunch at a decent price and at a place that is clean, this is the place for you. I see it gets mixed reviews elsewhere, but I stick by my “like”.
Disclaimer: This is my first draft. I’m throwing caution to the wind, so please forgive me if I’ve made any errors.