Veggie filled pho, Pho Time PB
1820 Garnet Avenue, San Diego
Festive Pho Time
Pacific Beach has more than its share of boisterous bars and crowded restaurants that cater to binge-drinking college kids. But Pho Time, on the infamous Garnet Avenue strip, delivers the opposite experience with affordable Vietnamese food in a calm setting.
Maybe the unremarkable scene is due to pho’s reputation as a hangover cure... I did note numerous take-out orders and a few disheveled patrons clad in sweatshirts, lounge pants, and Uggs. Then I remembered that’s just everyday, relaxed-P.B. style, prior alcohol consumption aside.
The attentive server delivered appetizers before I had a chance to pour my Tsing Tao ($4.10) into a frosty mug. This pace continued with the delivery of a steaming bowl of vegetarian pho, which was given time to cool while my attention was directed to the first course.
Simple but satisfying shrimp spring rolls, Pho Time PB
Spring-roll fans will appreciate the protein options, including shrimp, grilled pork, chicken, beef, and tofu, all served with a peanut sauce. The shrimp spring rolls ($4.25) were light, flavorful, and full of fresh lettuce and bean sprouts.
I welcome all forms of fried calamari — rings, strips, and tentacles can find their way onto my appetizer plate any day. Pho Time’s menu notes that five pieces are included with the order ($7.85), but the strips were twice the size of a typical portion and over-fried, resulting in a shriveled, tough impostor of my beloved appetizer. They arrived alongside a lemon wedge and overly sweet aioli.
Curled in protest calamari, Pho Time PB
Vegetarian pho isn’t always easy to find, but when you do, it’s usually accompanied by a flavorless, watered-down vegetable broth. Pho Time gets it right by producing a salty, savory broth complemented with rice noodles, tofu, broccoli, carrots, bok choy, and green onions ($7.65). Garnished with bean sprouts, basil, lime juice, hoisin sauce, and chili garlic sauce, this vegetarian soup is crave-worthy.
In addition to the meat and seafood versions of pho ($7.65-$9.25), Pho Time also serves up traditional dishes including broken rice ($8.75–$13.45), rice vermicelli ($8.75–$10.25), and bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich, $5.25).