Pho Tan Hoa

June 25, 2007

Located across Jones Street from the Gazebo Smoke Shop and one of the many “massage parlors” that grace the streets of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, Pho Tan Hoa is in a prime location for fans of that particularly colorful brand of street theater that is the hallmark of the Tenderloin. If you are not a fan of street theater, please do not be discouraged, as you could very well be a fan of the tasty noodle soups to be found at Pho Tan Hoa; this restaurant is definitely worth at least one visit. However, if you are a fan of the street theater, make sure to snag a table facing the street: you won’t be disappointed!

Pho Tan Hoa used to be named simply “Pho Hoa”, and the name was changed only recently to “Pho Tan Hoa.” This restaurant is not a member of the huge worldwide Pho Hoa chain, and so we can only assume the name was changed to avoid confusion. Good thing too, because Pho Tan Hoa’s soups are far and away superior to the fare typically offered at the Pho Hoa chain, which — to put it lightly — leaves much to be desired. Pho Tan Hoa is run by very gracious and friendly people, and they are quick to remember and acknowledge repeat customers. As is often the case at pho joints, the service here is usually lightning quick.

On our most recent visit to Pho Tan Hoa, Short Exact ordered the pho dac biet,


which the menu declares to be a “house specialty,” and rightly so. On top, you can see the slices of rare steak. At some pho joints, slices of “rare” steak are served stewing in the broth, so that they are already overcooked by the time the bowl reaches your table from the kitchen. Here, though, care was taken to make sure that the slices were mostly perched atop the broth, so that the rare slices were actually rare. The above photo shows the slices more submerged than they actually were upon serving, since we had poked our chopsticks in, almost forgetting to take a picture! It was a close call.

We did not do it on this last visit, but for an additional 50 cents, several slices of rare steak are served on a separate plate with an additional bowl of broth, allowing you to personally customize how much to cook the meat.

In addition to the rare steak, our bowl of pho dac biet had plentiful and tender chunks of tendon, strips of tripe exhibiting a nice snap and bounce, and several slices of well-done brisket. The noodles were a bit clumpy but pleasantly chewy. The broth was a touch murky, but generally good, as flavors of anise and cilantro rounded out the substantial beef base. Fresh slices of onion supplied a welcome touch of crispness.

If we had to go one way or the other, we personally prefer the clean purity of the Northern Vietnamese broths (such as those found at Turtle Tower) to the more dressed-up Southern-style broths, and we are partial to Turtle Tower’s fresh wide noodles. However, Southern-style pho is also very nice, and Pho Tan Hoa serves up a quality version.



431 Jones Street (between O’Farrell St. and Ellis St.)
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415.673.3163
Hours: Daily, 8:00 am – 7:00 pm.

Cash only. Takeout available.

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Neighborhood: Tenderloin

How to get there: Muni lines 2, 3, 4, 19, 27, 31, 38, and 76. Pho Tan Hoa is 4-5 blocks from both Powell and Civic Center BART/Muni stations (lines F, J, K, L, M, N, T).


  1. Thank you for your kind words Short Exact! I will definitely miss SF, but know that I can rely on your amusing and well-written posts to transport me back the foggy city and bring a smile to my face. You know, if you are interested, maybe you and I (and your significant other and my beau) could meet up sometime before I leave! And maybe we could include other food bloggers too! I understand you are busy, I am too, and if you aren’t interested, that is okay as well. 🙂

  2. @ PE: that sounds like fun. I’ll drop you an email.

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