Pho Saigon is an exotic trip for your tastebuds

It may surprise some, but Macon has a number of somewhat exotic restaurants that one is usually only able to find in larger cities. One of those places is Pho Saigon Vietnamese restaurant, which is located at 3076 Riverside Drive in the Northgate Village Shopping Center.

Situated in the middle of a strip mall, nestled behind Long Horn Steakhouse and Mandarin Chinese Restaurant, it is easy to miss, but Pho Saigon’s food is well worth the effort of keeping your eyes peeled to find this gem. If you see Fresh Air Barbeque, you are in the right place. Some of you may remember that they used to be on Mercer University Drive several years ago before moving to the current location.

Pho Saigon Macon Pork Claypot
Pork claypot is one of Pho Saigon’s best dishes. Suitable for the adventurous as well as cautious eater. Photo by Doug Deal.

The dining room is a lightly decorated mix of long tables down the middle and booths against the wall. Depending on how crowded it is, you may share opposite ends of one of the long tables, but your party will still maintain privacy.

The menu has a large selection. Dishes include soups, noodles, rice claypots, sandwiches, appetizers and stir-fried items. All of the portions are large. You may not think of soup as something that could fill you up, but you will be shocked at the size of the bowl they will give you. They are very generous with their soup ingredients, as well, filling the broth with varieties of meat, seafood, and vegetables as you request them.

On this past visit, I started with pork egg rolls. These are what they sound like, delicious egg rolls served golden brown with a sweet and slightly spicy sauce. The appetizer comes with 2 rolls cut on the bias into four pieces, for $3.50. Large enough to share, but small enough for one.

For my entrée, I went with my favorite, number 61, pork claypot. This selection is served in an extremely hot dish (the namesake “claypot,”and it is loaded with rice, meat, and vegetables of your choosing. The heat sears the contents to the sides and bottom, creating a thin savory crust that will be a reward for when you finish the bulk of the entrée.

On the table, there are several flavor enhancers to fit your tastes. Since I like spicy food, the chili paste is a favorite, and I generally apply a liberal amount. For those who prefer a sweet dish, hoisin sauce is also available and is equally good with the claypots. Of course, there is also fish sauce and sriracha as well. The combination of flavors from the aromatic and crunchy vegetables and seasoned meats, applied sauces and rice base make this something you’ll want to finish to the last morsel. At $10.50, the over-sized portion, it is a great deal and large enough to share.

There are several protein selections available, including a vegetarian option in tofu, shrimp, chicken, beef, and pork. These options are also available in most of their other items, such as their soups and their noodle dishes. I have been several times and have never had a disappointing meal.

Pho Saigon - Macon - Egg Rolls
Pho Saigon has a selection of tasty appetizers, including these pork egg roills, served with a sweet and spicy sauce. Photo by Doug Deal.

For those looking for a sandwich for lunch, Pho Saigon also has “Bahn Mi,” which are Vietnamese style subs. The bread is soft, and it is the perfect bed for the intensely flavorful choices of beef, sausage, chicken, and pate.

To complete your meal, I also recommend that you give one of their bubble teas a try. These are not teas in the Earl Grey sense, served hot, but are a chilled dessert-like beverage with small balls of tapioca in the bottom. Flavors include mango, green tea, strawberry and Thai spiced milk tea. All of these are delicious, but personally, the Thai version is the best. It reminds me of a cinnamon ice cream shake and is something you’ll crave long after you’ve finished it.

Service is helpful and friendly. If you go a couple of times, they will recognize you and even get to know your favorites. This level of personalization is a treat to find and one of the reasons we enjoy small locally owned restaurants.

Pho Saigon has various lunch specials available from 11-3 daily and also offer delivery for orders over $35. Their phone number is 478-477-1117, and you can see their menu online at https://goo.gl/dtwGHe.

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