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Restaurant lunch highlights:

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Pho Hanoi

Asian lunch adventure offers unique cuisine

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

PHOhanoiI'm glad GLOB Content Editor Lynn Dirk extensively covered the wonders of Pho, Hanoi Pho, (FUH), in her feature below this one.

It has been a while since I had visited Pho Hanoi, the Asian soup restaurant on SW 34th Street near the Good Will Industries warehouse. Life must be good in this Vietnamese soup kitchen   I have always appreciated the clean, uncluttered style of most Asian restaurants. Pho Hanoi is no different in this sense. Tables are arranged to provide a spacious, albeit intimate, environment for conversation, comfort, and a leisurely lunch. PH has also added a very large salt water aquarium containing yellow tangs and other spectacular marine life.

PHOaquarium

Talk about a conversation starter for the GLOB Master. I used to own saltwater aquarium and enjoy discussing the unique process of keeping a piece of the ocean alive indoors.

No, I didn't make any smart remarks about the 'catch of the day' being from the in-house saltwater fish tank.

Pho Hanoi has an extensive menu of authentic Vietnamese cuisine from appetizers, (Khai Vi ) to tapioca noodle soup (Bnh Canh).

 

PHOsandwich350Between these Asian lunch bookends you will also find Vietnamese sandwiches (Banh mi), sliced stir fried beef and onions marinated in house seasonings, and a dish called Ham & Cha consisting of Jambon and sliced cured pork roll.

For a vegetarian lunch, Pho Hanoi offers a platter of tofu and mixed vegetables wok-fried in house seasonings call Bnh M Chay. Of course the friendly staff will be happy to make any entrée vegetarian if you ask. There is also a list of many different vegetarian entrees including pan fried egg and pan fried rice and noodle dishes.

Vietnamese crepe pancakes are available too. The crepes are prepared in a cast iron skillet with shrimp, chicken, pork, and bean sprouts served with large leaf lettuce, cilantro, and house Vietnamese Sauce.

 

PHOsoup1Not to steal Captain Dirk's thunder in the review below, I counted 15 different soups available all including your choice of either rice noodles, egg noodles, or a combination of both served with or without homemade pork broth and finished with fried shallots, chives, and a salted radish crumble. All soups include a side of fresh bean sprouts, jalapenos, lime, and thai basil.

Lastly chicken, fish, shrimp, and rice dishes are also on this multi-item lunch list.  Phew!  That's alot of information just to say this lunch stop has a long and varied list of Asian soups, sandwiches, salads, and platters available for hungry GLOBers.  There is a complete Pho Hanoi menu at a weblink below.

As you can see, we spent more time than usual reading a menu of engaging lunch ideas. Our server was very helpful in answering our questions, and my two lunch companions and I ventured into South East Asian gastronomical boundaries of Viet Nam and chose completely different directions.

 

PHOjanesSMALLPLATEaSweetBerries Eatery & Frozen Custard co-owner Jane Osmond went the small plate route and selected three appetizers from the Khai Vi menu. Of course her intent was to share with her husband, Mark Olson providing he understood he would share his Com Chin Tm with her. His choise was a Vietnamese shrimp fried rice with a wok-fried rice seasoned with soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, and black pepper and accompanied by bean sprouts, scrambled eggs, and scallions.

Jane's plate of appetizers made a good starter to our lunch -- Samosas:  Ground chicken marinated with yellow curry deep fried in wonton skins and served with pineapple sauce; Cha Gi: Crispy fried Vietnamese egg rolls; and Dumplings: Pan fried or steamed ground chicken dumplings served with ginger sauce.

The ginger sauce and pineapple sauce made these treats yummy. The crunch of the deep fried phyllo dough sheets combined with the spicy flavors made these SE Asian appetizers really good.

 

PHOfriedrice

Mark was presented a giant plate of shrimp fried rice that could have been easily shared by all of us for a healthy, stomach-filling lunch. Mark said he liked the assorted fresh veggies and the ample portion of shrimp.

The GLOB Master ordered a Vietnamese sandwich called Bahn mi (image at top). A Banh mi is an "authentic bite of Vietnam served on a toasted French baguette with homemade paté and mayonnaise, pickled carrots and daikon, cucumber, fresh jalapenos, cilantro, salt, pepper, and soy sauce." This was a very good sandwich with loads of crunch from the veggies. The peppers and cilantro sent my taste buds around the world trying to decide where the food gods sent me for lunch.

 

PHOdiningIn true Mike Sanford fashion I was enjoying my sandwich, Jane's small bites, and the most excellent conversation when the server approached asking how lunch was going.

"This is really a good sandwi . . , er, uh Jambon," I exclaimed. "Do you have some spicy mustard I could put on my sandwich?"

"No mustard here," the server said and walked away with a surprised look. I don't care, this is a great lunch stop for good friends, conversation, and an adventurous lunch.   Oh! plus a multitude of soup variations.

The Pluses and Minuses of Pho Hanoi:

The + indicators : Nice dining area, amazing menu, different tastes, textures, flavors.

The - indicator:  I think this lunch stop is for the more adventurous, 'Americanized' lunch outers.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Pho Hanoi.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

 

PHOsoup

Pho goodness's Sake – lunch is soup-erb

By Lynn Dirk, GLOB Content Editor

On a tip from a good friend – "my favorite restaurant in Gainesville," I went to check out Pho Hanoi. This is a small, pleasant restaurant with outdoor seating. The décor is interesting, but tables are packed in.

For such a small restaurant, the menu is quite large and has great diversity – rice, egg noodle, rice noodle, rice vermicelli, crepes. The menu also has some exotic surprises, such as tripe.

The restaurant was busy and, always a good sign, customers looked to be from the culture of the cuisine served at Pho Hanoi. Of course, there aren't that many Vietnamese restaurants in Hogtown, so maybe it wasn't just the authenticity of the food, but a kind of nostalgia. Either way, the food was quite good as far as a typical 3rd generation European (me!) could tell.

The restaurant is named after the famous soup dish, pho. There is a hilarious essay on how to pronounce this Vietnamese word, generally considered to be 'fuh,' which any fuh-n loving linguist should check out. And note that the entire website is all about loving pho. As a soup lover, I have to agree – this is a pretty special soup.

I ordered chicken pho. In pho, apparently the meat is generally sliced very thin. You get a big bowl of broth containing meat and rice noodles, and then a plate of fresh "condiments": bean sprouts – if you've never had fresh bean sprouts, you are missing out, jalapeno, lime, and a kind of basil that tasted a bit like anise, which is the herb that tastes like licorice.

There is also a spectrum of sauces on the table to add: hoisin -- a thick, sweet soy-ish kind of sauce; fish sauce -- a very salty soy-ish kind of sauce; soy sauce; and sriracha -- the hot sauce of the moment.  I added all the sauces except sriracha since I was putting all the jalapenos in the soup.

The condiments are added to the hot broth and it steeps the condiments like a tea. It's a fantastic dish, and PH does a great job. It's a huge bowl of soup, and I couldn't finish it. I had a little difficulty getting the left overs into the takeout container with all the condiments. The next day (for dinner!) it was even better.

My lunch partner had a beef stir fry with rice. That seemed very ordinary compared with my pho.

The service was slow – there was only one waiter for a good number of people. Everyone else seemed to accept it. But this is not a FOTR place even though it might look like one from the outside. No, this would be a special lunch where you are taking more time than usual. One of those lunches where you would truly get away from the office culture to a culture that is usually on the other side of the world.

The Pluses and Minuses of Pho Hanoi:

The + indicators : The chicken broth was rich and the ingredients you add yourself are very fresh.

The - indicator: Service. And the food, at least the pho, does not lend itself to rushing.

Be the first to offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Pho Hanoi.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

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Bagels & Noodles

Visitor gives pho, friend, the 'What Pho!'

By: Melissa Kahan, GLOB Correspondent

B&NsfMany Gainesville restaurants, delicatessens, and fast food spots have become staples simply because they have been around for many years. It is not until someone visits that you really evaluate these places, especially for those, like myself, who want to show out-of-towners the culinary best of Gainesville.

My good friend Dorothy from my hometown of West Palm Beach, Fla., has visited Gainesville a few times. It wasn't until she heard of a little place called "Bagels and Noodles" that she was intrigued. To anyone else besides Gainesville residents, bagels and noodles sound like the least complementary food items imaginable, from taste to meal to cultural background. And yet, here is the unlikely marriage of two delicious foods. I thought, "Hey, why not try the place again with someone new?"

 

BNtabkeWord of mouth has been the best advertising for the place by far based on raves over their breakfast and their lunch that I have heard. Until I visited for lunch this week, I had completely forgotten about this place. Was the food just forgettable, or was I so clouded with the plethora of new restaurants that I forgot about this small, long-time Gainesville haven?

It was a perfect Fall sunny day with a cool breeze, a sky so blue, and a daytime moon.

The restaurant, inundated with hungry customers of all ages, gave this indecisive food adventurer all the options in the world in the breakfast and Asian food spectrums. Again, how can the two possibly mesh? From big-as-the-plate omelets and banana pancakes — both of which are beyond tasty and extremely generous helpings for the price — to the highly-proclaimed Pad Thai and noodle dishes, I was overwhelmed. But, as with every food outing during my friend's visit — even though there's never enough time in a trip to cover all the bests, I was giving it my all — I aimed for a well-rounded meal experience, as imposing as the menu was.

Dorothy has made, ordered, and eaten pho more times than she can count but was taken aback when this food adventurer proclaimed a lack of pho experience (sorry in advance for the upcoming puns with "pho"!). Of course, we were obligated to try a bowl of their deluxe beef pho, but the meal would not be complete without a bagel. The adventurer in me needed a unique bagel choice, which the restaurant is known for, and I thought a sundried tomato bagel with sundried tomato pesto cream cheese would fit the bill.

After placing our order, not 5 minutes went by before the bagel was served, and not 10 minutes passed until two heaping bowls full of pho emerged before us. Complete with Sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce, and a side plate of bean sprouts with lime wedges, it was high-time for a true lesson on the art of consuming pho, "pho" real!

 

BNsauceHERBDorothy showed me how to mix the Sriracha and hoisin sauces in a small dish, take the small ladle to scoop some broth and the clear rice noodles and sprouts into the ladle with chopstick assistance, and grab a piece of meat floating among the broth to dip in the sauce mixture. With ladle of broth and noodles in one hand and a chopstick of sauce-soaked beef in the other, we dove right into the meat then, ladle full in one messy slurp, throwing all proper etiquette inhibitions aside. To say the least, it was a process. Regardless, I was extremely drawn to the aromatic broth warming my belly with each slurp; the long noodles curled at the bottom of the bowl in a heap; the hearty chunks of beef contrasting with the crispness of the fresh sprouts and the dark blanket of deep red Sriracha and black hoisin sauces.

For a first encounter with pho, I was enjoying every bite. But it was not my opinion this time that was the deciding factor. My Vietnamese compadre was weighing each component of the Vietnamese noodle soup for elements of authenticity, flavor, and overall execution. Upon the first taste of the comforting broth, she was pleased with its flavor.

"You can taste and smell when the broth has been cooking for a long time and when the herbs and spices, like cinnamon, have been soaking in it. That's how you know it's good," she said.

 

BNmlLUNCHDorothy not only commented on how the portions were plentiful, but she was also pleased with how well the flavors merged and how the cook definitely seemed to take the necessary time to let the flavors permeate the dish. It takes at least a day for this soaking process, she added, and the longer the soaking, the more aromatic and flavorful the pho. To say that it was the best pho she's had aside from her homemade version is high praise.

With at least a four-star pho-nalé (OK, I'm done) underway, my contribution to the food experience, the bagel, paled in comparison. It's not to say that the bagel was bad — in fact, it was toasted perfectly to a light crisp — but I felt it was overtaken by the pho feast. Regardless, I smeared on a generous helping of the light pink sundried tomato pesto cream cheese to the warm sundried tomato bagel. It was a tasty and hearty breakfast experience, varying greatly from my usual plain or everything bagel and plain cream cheese. The bagel was fresh, and it was a welcome contrast to the large serving of liquid from the pho. While the bagel was flavorful, I am spoiled by the bagels my mom buys from the New York-style bagel shop back home, so I couldn't really boast about this bagel any further.

 

BNmkpalIn my four years in Gainesville, I have been a few times and didn't give the hole-in-the-wall on University Avenue a second thought. Now, I'm not sure why that is. Not to mention there holds a bit of sentimental value to it: Dorothy and I have been friends even before we had cell phones (I figured that would put it in perspective), and it seems that based on our cultural backgrounds and the closeness of our relationship, "Bagels and Noodles" is the perfect metaphor to depict us. I recommend the place hands-down for a casual Sunday brunch with family or friends, a great breakfast with fellow peers to start the school day, or maybe the place to take your out-of-towners for a wholesome and original experience.

The Pluses and Minuses of the Bagels & Noodles:

Bagels & Noodles (+) indicators: Great execution of all specialties both Asian and breakfast-related; fast service compared to number of customers; highly-praised; great price for what you pay for.

Bagels & Noodles (+) indicators: I want to try everything.

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Bagels & Noodles.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

 

AAsmallknifefork0311 

Midtown lunch surprises with menu variety

By Mike Sanford, GLOB Editor

I like to remark that Ward's Grocery is the only market in town where designer beer, vitamin supplements, and frozen pizzas are eight to five feet away from each other.

The Bagel & Noodles breakfast, lunch, and dinner spot might have them beat in the 'we have it all' category.

If you haven't had any reason to be at the corner of University Ave. and 13th St., you most likely aren't aware of this very old building close sitting cozily behind the Holiday Inn that houses Beef O' Brady's. But if you have ever had any kind of UF business taking you close to this very busy intersection, some might say the true heart of Gainesville, you are thinking, "Oh yeah, I know that place."

B&NsilhouteWalking inside B&N you recognize this gow historic old building continues  to be a convenient retreat for UF folks escaping the stressors and issues that encumber all aspects of life of those lunchouters crossing 13th St. to get away from the world of academia.

In the hustle and bustle of orders being taken, served, and eaten, there is a serenity that made me feel I had escaped the real world looming, passing by, outside the large Bagel & Noodle picture windows.

I was curious to see exactly how far this have-it-your-way-lunch stop goes for the hungry lunch adventurer.

I have heard about the fabulous Asian/Vietnamese lunch entrees and tasty soup called pho (pronounced "fuh").

I already knew B&N served a full menu of breakfast fare including bagels, of course, and lox, pancakes, French toast and numerous breakfast specials.

I was surprised to see an even larger list of typical lunch items including sandwiches, cheese steaks, grilled cheese, tuna salads, and hamburgers.

There is a link to the Bagel & Noodles menu below this feature.

B&Nlunch600The tuna salad patty melt sounded like a good lunch for the GLOB Master. After my server listed six or seven bread options for my sandwich, she suggested a bagel and I opted for the Sun Dried tomato bagel toasted with a slice of tomato and Monterey Jack cheese.

It turned out my patty melt was a large open face sandwich with big scoops of tuna salad, tomato, and cheese on both halves of my bagel, photo above.

The sandwich was very good, and the tomato slice was a nice complement to the creamy tuna salad. The toasted bagel and melted cheese 'sandwiched' all the ingredients into a very nice bite size parcel of lunch time joy. The potato salad was an interesting after thought-like addition. Next time I think I will go for the bag of chips instead. My server suggested I might like a side of jalapeno peppers for my sandwich. I wish I had listened to her. Some spicy peppers would have sent this lunch over the mountain top of great lunch time expectations.

I'm usually not the dumbest guy on the bus, and I did feel smart making my visit to Bagel & Noodles when the UF campus was emptying out. A lot of UF types call themselves Bagel & Noodles regulars, and I have heard it can get busy at this close-to-campus lunch stop hideaway.

The Pluses and Minuses of the Bagels & Noodles:

Bagels & Noodles (+) indicators: Extraordinary selection of lunch items. Interesting elements of campus life within this café.

Offer your GLOB comments, lunch photographs and opinions about Bagels & Noodles.  Please identify your opinions with a PLUS SIGN (+) for positive comments, and a MINUS SIGN (-) for your negative comments.  - THANKS!

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