HOUSTON – It’s nestled into the far end of a strip center between Spice Lane and Beechnut just off the West Sam Houston Tollway. If you aren’t looking, you’d miss it – but that would be a mistake.
Behind the strip mall façade are the wonderful aromas of Vietnamese spices and traditional foods that are both rich in flavor and culture.
Pho Bò To & Bò Né opened in 2018 and is a hidden gem where you can buy a truly homecooked meal.
Hoang Nguyen watched his parents become successful business owners in the rural areas of Vietnam, and his vision was to take everything he learned watching them and incorporate his knowledge with his passion for cooking.
Nguyen came to America in 1984 and started working as a busboy and waiter before getting a job as a machine operator, which he did for 28 years.
In 2017, the company Nguyen worked for decided to cease operations in Texas, which propelled him to follow his dream and -- with the help of his family -- open a business that showcased his cooking.
It’s all about flavor
Yes, there are tons of Pho restaurants in Houston, but Nguyen’s daughter and general manager of Pho Bò To & Bò Né, Kristine Nguyen, said flavor is what sets her family’s restaurant apart.
The most popular pho is the Pho Dac Biet Xuong Suong Bo, which comes with six different meats plus a tender short rib. However, no matter what kind of meat you get, the real star is the broth.
“The broth has to taste good and authentic to give guests the true experience of eating Vietnamese noodle soup,” Kristine Nguyen said. “Our broth has a balance of the traditional strong spices that crafts the flavors of pho. It not only has a strong and powerful smell, but it tastes phenomenal. Our broth is created ‘ready to eat,’ meaning it’s good the way it is and does not need extra sriracha or hoisin sauce added unless preferred.”
Another signature dish is their Bo Ne, which is steak cubes served with a fried egg in a sizzling plate. It comes with a baguette and Vietnamese mayo and pate spread – which should not be overlooked just because they are sides.
“(The) Bo Ne beef is juicy and tender,” said Kristine Nguyen. “We also focus on crafting the right textures for our foods. We are not like any other ‘Asian restaurant’ in China Town. Our goal is to provide exceptional service and delicious food. If our guests are happy, we are happy.”
Try something new
While many people go for their most popular dishes, Kristine Nguyen said there are plenty of lesser-known ones that are just as good.
“Com Chien Bo Luc Lac is a pretty good dish that not too many people order,” Kristine Nguyen said. “The steak cubes are cut very similar to Bo Ne and it’s very juicy and tender as well. The sauce and texture is more thick, so it’s better to eat with rice.”
If you are looking for the taste of pho but aren’t in the mood for a bowl of soup, Kristine Nguyen recommends going for the “Pho Bo Kho.”
“This dish is pho with rare tender beef & flank cooked with onions & our house sauce,” she said. “It’s also topped with steam bean sprout, fried eggs, fried onions, peanuts, fresh onions & cilantro. This also comes with a side soup. If you are allergic to peanuts we can definitely leave the peanuts out.”
What people are saying
It’s one thing for the owners to sing their restaurant’s praises, but people are just are enamored with the restaurant.
“(Pho Bò To & Bò Né) opened my eyes to a new way to eat Vietnamese French bread,” said Rich T. on Yelp! “Spread that pate and mayo on there and dip it in the Bo Ne sauce. If you feel extra adventurous order the bone marrow on the side and put some of that nectar of the gods on the bread too. I tried this place on a recommendation and now I keep dreaming of this place. I could eat their bread all day dripping in beef juiciness.”
Another Yelp user, Erin Y., said it was, “the best Bo Ne I’ve had in Houston! Beef is so tender, eggs cooked perfectly over-easy. Baguette is fresh and perfect for pairing with the pate + aioli (my favorite part). If you’re looking for a steak & eggs breakfast, this is the place to go. On top of that, service is great (especially considering its Chinatown!) My dad has a gluten allergy and the waitress was very accommodating to make sure my dad could eat everything that came in/with his modified shrimp fried rice (no soy sauce). Plenty of parking available in the strip mall. Storefront is a little hidden by trees, but its located in the back on the left side of the strip mall.”
If those comments still had you doubting (you must be a hard sell), Emily Phuong L.’s comment will make you a believer.
“No frills, just real pho. If you come expecting a spicy cucumber salad as an appetizer, and fancy Vietnamese drinks, this is not the place. But if your Vietnamese dad wants a good authentic bowl of pho, this is where to take him. Their special pho with the beef rib is huge. We had to bring home a part of the rib because it was way too big to eat in one go. I also had the oxtail and it was very delicious as well. The texture was just right - not too chewy/soft. I will come back.”
More than a restaurant
Growing up, Kristine Nguyen said she and her siblings had the blessing of growing up enjoying their father’s food and it is sharing those flavors and dishes with others is what makes it so special.
“My dad is a hardworking man,” said Kristine Nguyen. “if he has a passion for something, he will always find a way to make it happen. He’s always dreamt about having his own business and serving his delicious pho to everyone.”
For Pho Bò To & Bò Né and the Nguyens, it is and will always be family first.
“We are very family-oriented,” Kristine Nguyen said. “Each one of my siblings have different goals and some have their own full-time job. However, we all take part in handling a part of the business. We work together and take pride in creating a memorable dining experience for our guests by serving only the highest quality and best-tasting food.”
8388 W Sam Houston Pwky, Suite #162
Mon: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Tue: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Wed: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Thu: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Fri: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sat: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sun: 10 a.m. - 8 p.m.