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Monday, July 28, 2014

Quality food, good service mark Pho Chopstix

By Natasha Creasman
Wichita Eagle Dining Panel

After hearing nothing but great things from several friends for the past year about Pho Chopstix, my family and I finally stopped in for a quick lunch recently.

The restaurant opened in February 2011 when owner Tony Cao took over the space formerly occupied by Chopstix in a strip mall on the northwest corner of 21st and Ridge Road.

The dining room was very clean, and the staff was friendly and welcoming. I was expecting more of a take-out place, so I was pleasantly surprised that there were plenty of tables and table service.

There is a take-out counter, but if you are dining in, you can seat yourself anywhere you’d like, which we discovered after awkwardly hanging out at the counter, looking lost. Let our awkwardness spare you some; just have a seat.

The menu features Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese options. The spring rolls were gigantic, stuffed with huge shrimp and shredded pork, but they were lacking in flavor. Not my favorite.

Pho is offered in regular and large sizes. Unless you haven’t eaten for several days or are feeding an entire family, the regular should be sufficient for most appetites.

The meatball Pho was decent, although next time I would try a different variety (no tripe for me, thank you). The vegetables in the soup were really fresh, and the noodles were perfect, but the broth was mediocre.

The Bun (vermicelli) with grilled pork was fantastic. The noodles were perfectly cooked, the vegetables wonderful and the pork tender and sweet. The banh mi was equally delicious, with crusty bread and great flavor. My son is notoriously picky and loved it, especially when he was told he could order it without vegetables. The Chinese offering was pretty standard, but what we tried (the sweet and sour chicken, my daughter’s go-to dish) was tasty. Several flavors of smoothies also are offered, which were a fantastic treat. With boba or tapioca added, they are a nice change from the norm. My kids loved them.

It is obvious that the restaurant does not operate with a huge budget, but what it lacks in decor it overcomes in quality food and an earnest desire to provide good service and build repeat clientele, which was clear when the owner stopped by after we finished to ensure everything was to our liking and to offer recommendations.

This is exactly the type of underdog establishment that should succeed.

Natasha Creasman is a member of the Wichita Eagle Dining Panel. Read more about the panel, including member reviews, at Kansas.com/dining.

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