I never really know where it is I will end up on our restaurant adventures. Tonight it was PHO 999.
The name really cracks me up! It's fun to say, and though you might be a little wary when you pull up to this place, the food here was really really good. In talking about Vietnamese food with a an Asian friend named Gary, he told me this is his favorite place in all Spokane! He should know.
What is fun about Pho999 is that it makes a person who is familiar with the Bible think of the number 666, which, in scripture is the number of a man, and the number of a man who will be the epitome of evil. (Note, this number is not 666, it's 999.) We asked the owner about the name and he told us that he thinks of as a lucky number. Perhaps this is why????
I am not convinced of the luck, but if it is the exact upside down-ness (aka opposite,) then that would be good, (as opposed to evil) so, God bless them for that one there!.
PHO, "999" is located in Spokane at 2904 E Sprague Ave.
So this is how we got there...
When I asked Geo about where we were going, he said, "How about Vietnamese food? I found a little place on Sprague."
I had to think about it. Quite frankly, I hesitated. (Geo would tell you a different story of my reaction.) This is because "s little place on Sprague" was, well, you would have to know Spokane. It sounded a little, " scary." Then he gave me more information to try to convince me. He told me that he called already and it sounded really good. He said that the man who answered the phone seemed to speak very little English.
Another hesitation.... (on my part.)
Then, with excitement and a little bit of pleading in his voice he added, "It's probably really authentic!"
I am still not convinced. Now, I like Vietnamese Phood (just thought of that one) or at least, I am learning to like it... but still, the whole concept of it is pretty new to me, but "Sprague?"... It's well, totally off my beaten path...
"Where on Sprague?" I asked. "Is it way out in the Valley?" I was hopping it was far.
Geo pulled out the GPS, took note that it was not "too" far. Taking that as affirmation from me, that I would go, off we went..... I made a funny face and hoped for the best.
He was so excited. I was nervous, and even moreso as we drove into what appeared to be a nearly vacant parking lot at a pretty run-down looking diner, (on Sprague Avenue none-the-less.) But I kid you not... he was really so happy to try this place; How could I possibly say "no"?
Easy.... but he was so excited...
"How many people get to eat real Vietnamese food?" he asked.
"How many people do, and live to write about it?" I joked back.
We went in and the man, (probably the one who answered the PHO-ne earlier,) greeted us and seated us promptly. and to my surprise there were other tables with customers. The place from the outside looked deserted. But from inside it was a whole different perspective. It was also a very homey atmosphere. The ball game was on, people were enjoying their food and the sound of fishtanks bubbled in the background. Everything was neat and tidy, (at least out front) even to the tray of condiments that graced the tables. It was nice, run down a bit, but pleasant.
There is something special about ethnic diners in that they often have pictures displayed on the walls to remind them of their homeland. Their are things important to them all around. Part of it is I am sure because as a hard working small business owner, the restaurant becomes a big part of your life, a reflection of who you are. This is perhaps the beauty of the middle class, the beauty of a land of opportunity and freedom, but I digress to philosophy here... let's talk restaurant and food..
There were a couple of pretty waterfall posters on the wall. (Hey, it was....PHOtography!) One of the fishtanks housed a large cichlid. The sound of the fishtanks was actually a very pleasant sound to eat by, that and the dim roar of the football game. It was like being in someones house and very pleasant.
The people at the next table told us they eat here often and that the food is always good while we were waiting for our food to arrive. They recommended the teriyaki chicken, but we had already ordered. Are you wondering what we had to eat?
For an appetizer, we had Goi Cuon and then we ate Bun Bo Hue and Mi Xao Don Thap Cam.
(Isn't that wild?) I love the language, the way it sounds and they way that I have absolutely no idea what it means is so intriguing to me. "Lasagna," I understand, but Xao Don Thap? Hardly.
This of course makes it hard to order, but fortunately here in America they are nice enough to have translations. Translated the Vietnamese menu means that we ate: A spring roll, (or "mixed salad roll") which consisted of lettuce, shrimp, pork and noodles wrapped in a rice wrap. We dipped this in peanut sauce. Then we ate Spicy Beef & Pork Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue). It comes with mung bean sprouts, and a beautiful fresh sprig of basil, sliced fresh jalapeno peppers and slices of lime on the side that you add into your soup to your own liking. The soup itself has lots of noodles, shredded cabbage, and meat. It is spicy but not too spicy, and the basil is incredible! This makes for a very flavorful soup. Also, I never knew how good mung beans spouts were until eating them like this in soup! And then we also ate Crispy Noodles with Chicken, Beef, and vegetables. The crispy noodles were new to both me and Geo. We loved them, and the shrimp was awesome.
The meal prices were pretty reasonable and I say this as the two of us ate all of this for $18.00. Not only that, we were served by the chef himself. Nice guy. He even helped us say the cool words of the foods we ordered.I would say it was pretty authentic Vietnamese Phood.
I will never forget Geo looking at me over the meal, with total sincerity too, as he was considering the yumminess of our dinner saying, "American food is so boring."
I had to agree, but you know what? I think he just likes eating soup with chopsticks!
We really did like eating here, and hope to go again soon. Last time we went, not remembering exactly where it was, we ended up visiting Viwn Dong. We even called once before driving over there, only to get no answer on the phone. We will however try again and investigate this further, in the meantime, Gary, you are right... and we agree, this little out of the way place has GREAT FOOD!
Gary says it's the best PHO in town. Nothing PHOny about it