Pho Hoa – A Decent Vietnamese Chain Restaurant in Malden

Bostonians are likely aware that Quincy, the city of two Presidents, hosts some pretty good Asian restaurants. Thousands of first, second and third generation Asian Americans call Quincy home. And they have built up a solid, financial successful community of former immigrants just south of Boston. And just like many other ethnic areas, restaurants have proliferated. For those of us on the north side of Boston (“the North Shore”), there hasn’t been a concentration of Asians enough to get a variety of  – and the necessary competition between – restaurants to ensure decent quality. Sure, every town seems to have a Thai restaurant now (amazing if you think 10 years ago most towns had ZERO Thai restaurants) but because of lack of competition, I have visited some TERRIBLE Thai places – and that’s hard for me, to call Thai food terrible because I typically just eat noodle or curry dishes. And how do you mess that up?

Thankfully, a growing force – namely the increasing numbers of Vietnamese and Chinese immigrants moving to Malden – are helping to fuel a slow increase in the number of Asian restaurants in that city, giving people in the area a chance at decent quality Asian food.  In addition to families and people looking for a new life, many of these immigrants are now students at Boston area universities and live in Malden for its affordability and access to the train.  And many of these immigrants are Vietnamese so I expect a few Vietnamese restaurants to open in Malden. One such place is Pho Hoa, a small chain of  ~70 Vietnamese restaurants with an international presence (70 is rough as the Malden location isn’t even listed on the website yet – though there is one in the Gangnam district of Seoul). From the website:

Founded nearly three decades ago on the principles of exceptional value, quality and service, Pho Hoa Noodle Soup operates what is today the largest Vietnamese fast-casual dining chain in the world.

.I have eaten a few times at the Pho Hoa in San Francisco (the Embarcadero location) and enjoyed it so I decided to suggest Pho Hoa in Malden for a lunch meeting.

Is Pho Hoa “authentic” Vietnamese food? I don’t know – don’t bother me with that kind of discussion, it’s a bit annoying. I can only compare it to the Vietnamese restaurants I’ve been to in Chinatown (with the tiny bugs crawling on the place mat – is that the “authentic ” you’re looking for?!!) and the Tenderloin in San Francisco, and to Le’s, a popular mini chain around Boston. It’s pretty good and remember, as I’ve said a few times on this blog (when it comes to food), I eat a simple menu so I’m not a great judge of any restaurant’s full cuisine. However, I like the pho here (the soup) and the experience is pleasant.

Image from Yelp

The restaurant boasts a nice clean interior, booth and table seating, and a full menu of pho, bun (rice noodle), a cool 7 course beef menu and desserts. I was told by the way, that only the avocado is fresh in the drinks, so I assume they use frozen or powder for the mango, coconut and other fruit drinks. A bonus:  they can make their teas with boba so that’s a plus too.

I had the vegetarian pho which is basically soup, noodles, veggies, veggie broth and the side trimmings of basil leaves, lime, and bean sprouts. I love this soup (FYI: authentic would have meat & seafood and possibly a fish broth or meat broth). And because Pho Hoa is a chain, it tends to be a bit more friendly to varied dietary needs. Try getting vegan pho in Chinatown (I know better:).

Bottom line: if you want a bit of the Vietnamese experience, and want the option to go all in or customize a less daunting selection, try Pho Hoa.