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The ultimate hangover cure

Beef pho, 24 ways

Rare steak pho at Pho Hoa
Rare steak pho at Pho Hoa

I don’t often suffer from hangovers — as a pro, I know how to pace myself. But every once in a while a night gets away from me, and I imbibe more booze than water, or more wine than food, leaving me in a world of pain the following morning. One of the few things that can bring me back to life is a good bowl of ramen or pho. Unfortunately, there are few places serving up either at 10:30 am on a Saturday morning, which is when, on this dumb hangover day, I needed it most. Enter David, my personal restaurant finder, the Jeeves to my Wooster. He came up with a place we’d never been to before, Pho Hoa, that was just over a mile from our place, and open at 7am all the way through closing at 8 or 9pm every day.

Place

Pho Hoa

4717 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

Pho Hoa

I had barely passed through the door when a man handed us menus and gestured at a table to our left. When it comes to pho, I usually opt for egg noodles and chicken. It wasn’t until we took a look at the menu that David remembered “hoa” means “beef.” And that’s pretty much what you get when you walk into Pho Hoa. This no-nonsense place doesn’t distract you with spring rolls, rice dishes, or even chicken-based soups. What they do have is 24 options of beef you can have in your pho, such as flank, brisket, tripe, beef balls, beef cube, even pizzle. I opted for the classic rare steak, paper-thin slices of beef that cook in the bowl ($6.95).

A closer look at that tasty rare steak

The bowls arrived as swiftly as the menus had — I don’t think a full minute passed from the time we placed our order to the time those bowls were on the table. Then again, time travels at a different speed when you’re out of sorts. We received all the usual fixings: bean sprouts, basil, mint, jalapeno slices, and lime wedges. The broth was rich, with the perfect amount of salt to enhance the umami base. The meat was tender and lean, just how I like it.

Thai iced tea with boba. Mmm.

To complement the savory with a bit of sweet, and help resuscitate me with a little caffeine, I also ordered a Thai iced tea with boba ($3.50). As I sat there, vacillating between spoonfulls of hot, lime-scented beef broth and cool, sweet milk tea, I found myself sitting up straighter and straighter until suddenly, I smiled. “There you are,” David said, clearly happy to see me feeling better.

The space resembles a high school cafeteria, with long communal tables and not much else going on. When you do only one thing, it makes sense that you’d do it well, and I’m glad to report that I very much enjoyed my pho here. Specializing in only one dish is also why things moved so fast. Within 20 minutes of our arrival, we were back on the street and ready to face the day with happy tummies and clear heads.

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Rare steak pho at Pho Hoa
Rare steak pho at Pho Hoa

I don’t often suffer from hangovers — as a pro, I know how to pace myself. But every once in a while a night gets away from me, and I imbibe more booze than water, or more wine than food, leaving me in a world of pain the following morning. One of the few things that can bring me back to life is a good bowl of ramen or pho. Unfortunately, there are few places serving up either at 10:30 am on a Saturday morning, which is when, on this dumb hangover day, I needed it most. Enter David, my personal restaurant finder, the Jeeves to my Wooster. He came up with a place we’d never been to before, Pho Hoa, that was just over a mile from our place, and open at 7am all the way through closing at 8 or 9pm every day.

Place

Pho Hoa

4717 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego

Pho Hoa

I had barely passed through the door when a man handed us menus and gestured at a table to our left. When it comes to pho, I usually opt for egg noodles and chicken. It wasn’t until we took a look at the menu that David remembered “hoa” means “beef.” And that’s pretty much what you get when you walk into Pho Hoa. This no-nonsense place doesn’t distract you with spring rolls, rice dishes, or even chicken-based soups. What they do have is 24 options of beef you can have in your pho, such as flank, brisket, tripe, beef balls, beef cube, even pizzle. I opted for the classic rare steak, paper-thin slices of beef that cook in the bowl ($6.95).

A closer look at that tasty rare steak

The bowls arrived as swiftly as the menus had — I don’t think a full minute passed from the time we placed our order to the time those bowls were on the table. Then again, time travels at a different speed when you’re out of sorts. We received all the usual fixings: bean sprouts, basil, mint, jalapeno slices, and lime wedges. The broth was rich, with the perfect amount of salt to enhance the umami base. The meat was tender and lean, just how I like it.

Thai iced tea with boba. Mmm.

To complement the savory with a bit of sweet, and help resuscitate me with a little caffeine, I also ordered a Thai iced tea with boba ($3.50). As I sat there, vacillating between spoonfulls of hot, lime-scented beef broth and cool, sweet milk tea, I found myself sitting up straighter and straighter until suddenly, I smiled. “There you are,” David said, clearly happy to see me feeling better.

The space resembles a high school cafeteria, with long communal tables and not much else going on. When you do only one thing, it makes sense that you’d do it well, and I’m glad to report that I very much enjoyed my pho here. Specializing in only one dish is also why things moved so fast. Within 20 minutes of our arrival, we were back on the street and ready to face the day with happy tummies and clear heads.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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