Pho Hoa Vietnamese Restaurant, El Cajon Blvd - Still Serving Great Pho

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Pho Hoa on El Cajon Blvd.It's been a long time since I last visited Pho Hoa on El Cajon Blvd. This place has been here forever (well maybe at least to the mid 1980's as I remember), and its age can be seen in the exterior condition of the building. But don't let the look deceive you, because inside you'll find one of the best pho around.

Pho Hoa is located on El Cajon Blvd. in the City Heights neighborhood. It's smack in the middle of a concentration of Viet businesses along what is called 'the Boulevard', in between Euclid Avenue and 47th Street. In all directions are Viet businesses such as travel services, food markets, hair salons, food-to-go shops, even a Pho King. But Pho Hoa stands all by itself in its own red and white building with the red cow logo laughing proudly about its great tasting pho.

It is noted that this is not the San Jose-based Pho Hoa franchise that is appearing in many locations (but none yet in San Diego, probably because there are 2 non-franchised Pho Hoa here already.) Read my article on Pho Hoa Franchise.

Asia Business Center across from Pho HoaRight across from it is the newer and colorful Asia Business Center building sitting among the older architecture that is along El Cajon Blvd. Consisting mostly of offices for professional services like attorney's offices, tax return services and the likes, the building sticks out clearly and actually  serves as a good marker to find Pho Hoa. Once you find the Asia Business Center, Pho Hoa is right across the street.

Inside Pho Hoa is quite roomy which you wouldn't have guessed looking at the outside. The dining area is a little dark for lack of windows, but hey this is after all El Cajon Blvd. On the other hand the service is attentive and very fast. I ordered my usual pho tai, chin, sach (beef: rare, well-done brisket, tripe) plus a bottle of Heineken.

Pho Hoa El Cajon outside logo

Pho Hoa El Cajon outside logo

Pho bo (beef: rare, well-done brisket, tripe).

Pho bo (beef: rare, well-done brisket, tripe).

There's not much to say about pho at pho Hoa except that it's great. I would have liked a little more culantro, but what was served was enough for typical pho diners. Here are the points.

May 31, 2009

Pho bo (beef: rare, well-done brisket, tripe).

  • Pho noodle: (5/5)
  • Soup stock: (5/5)
  • Meats: (5/5)
  • Garnishes*: freshness (5/5)
  • Garnishes: extra point for fresh ngo gai (2/5)
  • Price: Baseline ($5-7), no extra points or deductions.
  • Extra points: +2 for cleanliness, considering the establishment's age.
  • Total points: 24 out of possible 25.

* No points for expected garnishes of sprouts, Thai basil, lime and chiles.

Pho Hoa Vietnamese Restaurant
4717 El Cajon Blvd. (between 47th St & Euclid Ave)
San Diego, CA 92115
(619) 283-6431

10 comments

  1. John 28 December, 2010 at 19:57 Reply

    wow i’m surprised to find this place on here. Pho Hoa is so my favorite pho place that i’ve come across only thing is it’s a nightmare trying to get a refill of water. The first three times I left $1 tip on my dac biet that cost $6.70 but I stopped leaving tips on the 4th visit. Am I wrong for this? I mean seriously if i’m taking on chile and sriracha laden soup I need WATER. On the plus side my tolorance for spicy has increased as I’ve learned to ration my little glass of water but I feel since i’m a regular they are spitting on my food because they know I don’t tip. Last time I went the guy knew my order “to dac biet with the beef on the side”. I felt guilty and tipped a buck but i’m conflicted because there isn’t any real “service”.

  2. Cuong 28 December, 2010 at 22:27 Reply

    Hi John: So what really happened? can you elaborate on your situation? Did you call them and they didn’t come, did they see you but ignored you anyway, did you expect them to check on you regularly but they never did? etc. I mean, if you really had to have water refill then there are ways to get it, including getting up and taking your glass to them, which is the extreme case. I’m not defending their service at all. In fact ‘m just pointing out the obvious fact that many Viet and pho restaurants are quick cheap eats, and service (as Westerners know it) is not to be expected. In fact tipping was never part of the deal. Americans actually taught the restaurant workers about receiving tips. Read more on Pho Etiquette.

  3. John 4 January, 2011 at 03:56 Reply

    I almost had to shoot flares in the air. I looked over in their direction, slid the glass towards the end of the table to no avail without hand signals. One time I got up and started walking towards one of the servers. Like I said I’ve learned to manage my water wisely now. I do understand tipping over there(vietnam) isn’t expected but we are in the states. I don’t like anything about the institution of tipping but I feel like everyone is watching what I throw down and if I don’t then I be forever on the spit-soup list. To feel put on the spot to leave a buck for a dude that served my food(which is his job anyways) is wrong in so many ways. I can’t even go to the bathroom without someone giving me the evil eye for not tipping. I got to pay $15 for a haircut and give the dude a bill on top of that? ughhhh It drives me nuts

  4. Cuong 5 January, 2011 at 13:19 Reply

    @John: It’s unfortunate that this happened to you. Maybe the next time you go there, or any other Viet restaurant, have a quick survey. You may notice that most if not all non-Viet guests will leave tips; many Viet guests will also leave tips; but still a few Viet guests will not. So my own take is, yes tips are important, but the expectation of it may not be as strong as you may think from the servers’ point of view. Again I’m not disagreeing with you or your situation, I’m just saying. I must admit John, the food must be so good that you put up with this 😉 For me that’s what Viet restaurant service is all about: none. But it’s okay… guess people like me are used to it.

  5. John 7 January, 2011 at 10:07 Reply

    Yes I can’t get enough of it. I’ve gone to about 10 places in SD for pho but this place keeps me coming back. Do you have any recommendations that are as good, better, or a must try? I feel like there might be a diamond in the rough I’m missing. Yelp is littered with people giving good reviews on something they aren’t qualified to review, not that i’m a pho pro or anything.

  6. Cuong 9 January, 2011 at 16:35 Reply

    @John: In San Diego area, you may want to try these below.

    Pho Hoa Linda Vista
    6921 Linda Vista Rd
    (at Ulric St)
    San Diego, CA 92111
    Neighborhood: Linda Vista
    (858) 492-9108

    Pho Ca Dao
    8373 Mira Mesa Blvd
    (between New Salem St & Reagan Rd)
    San Diego, CA 92126
    Neighborhood: Mira Mesa
    (858) 564-0917
    Read my post on Pho Ca Dao.

    Pho Cow Express
    9170 Mira Mesa Blvd
    (between Rickert Rd & Black Mountain Rd)
    San Diego, CA 92126
    Neighborhood: Mira Mesa
    (858) 271-8341
    Read my post on Pho Cow Express (formerly Pho Hoa Cali Express.)

  7. Cuong 18 January, 2011 at 23:18 Reply

    @CARL and @John: Great idea Carl. Or why not order two glasses of water as you order your pho? Or three glasses? I don’t know, they may finally get it. It’s still hard for me to believe a situation where a dining customer is being ignored like yours.

  8. john 23 January, 2011 at 19:36 Reply

    @Cuong: Good Idea Chuong but like I said my heat tolerance has gone from non existent to extreme thanks to my love of pho and rationing my little water glass. Now I don’t touch my water until my bowl is empty. At home I laced my sriracha with 1 million scoville capsaicin extract which is funny because i used to think sriracha was super spicy. I can eat habanero’s now without cooling agents. I’m thinking about making sriracha out of habanero or ghost peppers.

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