First Bites: Pho at Saigon Pho

New Forest Park restaurant brings Vietnamese chow to area

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By David Hammond

Pho is a traditional food – a soup eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner – in Viet Nam. The word rhymes with “duh” and is pronounced with a slightly rising inflection, as though you’re asking a question.

To Westerners, it may seem odd to have a spicy broth for breakfast.  But that’s exactly what I ate first thing on Mother’s Day. I found it delicious and bracing.

Though not as funky as some of the pho I’ve slurped in the neighborhood of Broadway and Argyle in Chicago, an area rich in Southeast Asian restaurants, the soup served at the newly opened Saigon Pho in Forest Park is a respectable rendition and not likely to freak out civilians (non-foodies). 

Saigon Pho offers several kinds of the soup. I elected to have “Rare beef with tendon.” Unfortunately, due to local health department requirements, the beef served is more well-done than rare.

If you’ve never had it before, tendon is all texture with little taste. I’ve had it so rarely that I felt I had to try it at Saigon Pho. Tendon is somewhat gristly and fatty, and you can see a bit of it in the accompanying photo (twelve o’clock, at the top of the soup bowl).

The basic pho is powerfully flavored with star anise, and it’s perked up with lime, basil, and sometimes other herbs. I’d recommend asking for extra herbs – these fresh seasonings make the basic broth come alive.

There are jalapenos and home-made hot sauce to help you break a sweat – and open your eyes in the morning. They do serve Vietnamese coffee, creamy and sweet, but I found the pho was all the wake-up call I needed.

Pho is $6.95 for a small and 8.95 for a large bowl – I found small to be a reasonable portion for one person.

Open from 9AM to 9PM every day, Saigon Pho is a good addition to Madison Street in Forest Park, which continues to welcome restaurants that spark envy in some Oak Parkers (ahem) who wish our village were home to some of these more adventurous places.


7237 W. Madison St

(between Elgin Ave & Marengo Ave)

Forest Park, IL 60130

(708) 689-0389

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