City Paper is not for tourists
My wife’s family eats Thanksgiving dinner late. This year we didn’t start feasting until after 8 p.m., which is just fine by me. I’ve never been a fan of the four-o’clock stuffing, which leaves you hungry right before bedtime. And we all know that eating before bed is not good for digestion.
But dining late on Thanksgiving forces you to eat a regular lunch, and since Carrie—-known as the Ballbuster or the old Ball and Chain in my macho household—-and I didn’t want to invest any more time in the kitchen, we searched for an open restaurant in downtown Silver Spring. It wasn’t easy. We feared we might be stuck unwrapping cold sandwiches at Starbucks.
Then we noticed, to our dismay really, that Pho Hiep Hoa was serving. We had been avoiding the place for the same reason every other pretentious asshole does—-no one trusts a Vietnamese pho shop in a commercial, white-bread strip center crammed with a Potbelly Sandwich Works, a Red Lobster, and a place that dares to call itself Eggspectation. Perhaps the Thanksgiving spirit—-or extreme hunger—-had softened my critical faculties, but I was quite happy with my pho. My fragrant bowl of eye-round, flank steak, brisket, tendon, and tripe went down extremely well, even if the noodle-to-protein ratio was about 5 to 1 in favor of the noodles. Then again, with pho, half the battle is waged tableside, where the quality of your soup is determined by a wise application of jalapenos, Thai basil, fish sauce, Sriracha sauce, and other condiments. I’ve learned how I like mine.
The real surprise at Pho Hiep Hoa proved to be the beverage menu, which includes milk shakes. I almost ordered the durian shake, but then chickened out. Instead, I got the avocado version, which sounded equally disgusting. The pale green liquid in the milkshake glass looked like lime sherbet, but it tasted like cream, sugar and…the unmistakable flavor of avocado. Truth be told, the avocado’s unctuousness was pretty muted, tamped down by all the milk and sugar. The shake played off the vegetable’s creaminess as much as its flavors. I have to admit, I really liked the drink, even when I sucked chunks of improperly mashed avocados through the straw.