Even though NE 23rd Street is one of the most historical streets in Oklahoma City, many locals tend to forget that it’s also home to some of the most grassroots and homegrown eateries in town, the best having a specific focus on soul food, barbecue and old-fashioned Southern cooking. NE 23rd Street restaurants are OKC’s culinary history all in a few blocks and really should be revered as such.
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Pho B&B Vietnamese Cuisine
1615 S. Interstate 35 Service Road, Moore
What works: home-style Vietnamese cooking at fast-food prices in a family-operated establishment
What needs work: Entrées should be brought to the table simultaneously or, at most, just a few minutes apart.
The tip: Pho on the south side is as good as or better than what you’ll find in the Asian District.
With a slight chill in the autumn air, pho seemed like the natural choice at a joint named after the Vietnamese national dish. I didn’t choose the offbeat ingredients such as tripe, fatty flank or tendon; I just got a simple brisket pho with rice noodles (large bowl $7.50).
There are 17 combinations of meat on B&B’s pho list. My wife ordered the grilled chicken and egg roll vermicelli bowl ($7.25). Within minutes of ordering, my pho was brought steaming to the table.
Fresh basil on the stem, lime wedges, raw bean sprouts and bright green jalapeño slices come with the pho. I began methodically tearing these garnishments apart and stirring them into the soup as we waited for my spouse’s order. It was about 10 minutes before the vermicelli came.
Although the wait was mildly irritating, it did allow the basil and lime to steep in the hot broth and make the dish even better. It was the best pho I’d had in many moons. The broth was fragrant with star anise and fennel seed. Plenty of beef and an enormous mound of snow-white noodles made it a generous meal for the heartiest of appetites. Smaller bowls are available for a couple of bucks less. Owner Bay Nguyen said that she simmers her broths for 36 hours. Every Vietnamese family has a slightly different take on pho; the Nguyens’ is particularly pleasing.
The spring roll and egg roll combination platter ($4.25) is a pretty quartet of pink shrimp in translucent rice paper wrapping and grilled pork nestled alongside bright green lettuce. Peanut dipping sauce comes alongside. Egg noodles with barbecued pork ($7.25) would be a good choice for those apprehensive about trying Vietnamese food for the first time. It’s similar to a Chinese or Thai stir-fry. A clear rice-wine vinegar sauce with slivered carrot is served on the side along with chopped lettuce and an egg roll.
The grilled chicken rice platter ($6.75) is also gentle on less adventurous palates. There are five vegetarian choices (all under $6) in the vermicelli, rice and noodle sections of the menu. Specials include an intriguing lemon grass noodle soup ($7.50) and shrimp and pork crepes ($5.95).
All B&B’s non-pho dishes are served with cucumber, carrot and scallion garnishes that are artfully carved and displayed on the plate.
B&B’s provides the kind of good meal that would have been unheard of in this neighborhood just a few years ago. We’re happy to have it here now.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.