The Best Pho in Toronto
The best pho in Toronto is a title that comes inherently with a little controversy. With so many restaurants at which to enjoy the Vietnamese soup noodle dish, the relative simplicity of pho means any discussion about the best version of this steamy comfort food quickly becomes a passionate defense of personal beliefs: how intensely flavoured should a broth be? What is the best type of noodle? What is the ideal meat to noodle ratio?
Harkening back to its street food origins, pho has become one of Toronto's most ubiquitous options for a quick and tasty meal, no matter the time of day or where in the GTA you might be.
This list features a broad swath of familiar favourites from neighbourhoods across the city. Some of my personal haunts just missed the cut, including Pho Pasteur at Dundas and Spadina, as well as Scarborough's Pho Metro and Pho 88 at Bamburgh Circle Plaza. But hey, that's the great thing about pho - there always seems to be another potential best bowl out there to be tried.
Here are the best bowls of pho in Toronto.
Note: This list was previously published on March 22, 2008. Comments below made up until May 15th, 2011 are in reference to the old list. We've purposely kept the archived comments here because we believe they (mostly) add value to this topic. If you don't want to have to wade through all of them, simply hit the "sort by newest first" link at the top of the thread.
Top middle photo by kayehm on Flickr.
Perhaps inexorably linked with celebrity chef Susur Lee who has been spotted dining here on occasion, this Ossington eatery is equally notable for its plethora of vegetarian friendly options. Small, cramped and consistently busy, this hole-in-the-wall is as minimalist in decor as the delicate broth that has made it a consistent local favourite, for professional chefs and regular hungry folks alike. More »
The laughing cow sign is pretty easy to spot. This Chinatown institution bustles at all times of day and has expanded to double its original capacity. The pho is hearty and the portions large. Patrons nuzzling up to their bowls of beef ball soup in the austere surroundings. Despite crowds, the vast real estate and entire walls of windows make this a relatively airy space compared to many other Vietnamese restaurants. More »
A relative newcomer to the city’s pho landscape, this Junction restaurant has been embraced by locals with open arms and stomachs. A clean modern interior and contemporary china has helped attract patrons by the droves. Generosity with the protein helps too, as does a menu that reaches into Chinese and Thai cuisine alongside traditional Vietnamese. More »
Both locations of this east-side seafood standout serve its signature spicy baby clams, grilled fish and a variety of Northern Vietnames inspired cuisine that helps the menu standout amongst fellow pho competitors. Although the original location is comparably upscale, the newer Leslieville locale is without a doubt the spot-du-jour, with a clean fauxotic aesthetic that manages to transport without feeling gaudy. Also, $5 glasses of wine? That’s French culture everyone can get behind. More »
With only two Scarborough joints making this list, Pho Vietnam is a strong choice to represent the treasure trove of good pho out East. Large portions served with a light, herbal and intensely flavoured broth make this outpost a common stop for pho seekers across the city. Don’t forget to venture off the noodle path as well. Many of the shrimp dishes here are excellent. More »
Forever known as “the other pho place on Ossington,” this divey restaurant is no slouch when it comes to the slurpy stuff. Many pho snobs consider Pho Tien Thanh to actually be superior to its Golden neighbour up the street and one taste of its deeply beefy broth is enough to understand why there’s a debate. Often crowded and always cash only, come during off hours and order the rare beef to get the classic experience. More »
With fresh noodles and a light broth that punches above its weight in the flavour department, this unassuming College west noodle house is a mainstay amongst the city’s pho faithful. It may look a bit like a bookies lair from the outside, but you can’t ever judge a pho restaurant by its cover. Don’t forget to try the banh beo (rice pancake), a bit of a rare treat for Vietnamese cuisine. More »
Labelling yourself a fine dining establishment tends to come with expectations. In the case of Pho Phuong, a bright modern interior and thoughtful presentation manage to somewhat reconcile its menu of typical Vietnamese dishes with its self-titled humblebrag. Huge portions of pho overflow with protein and pints of sumptuous broth. “Fine dining” may be a misnomer, but “Great rice dishes too” just doesn’t have the same ring I suppose. More »
Nestled in a strip mall next to a Home Depot, this low-key restaurant ladles out rich, savoury bowls of pho for neighbourhood families and night owls alike. Like many local Vietnamese restaurants, the interior and service sometimes border on utilitarian. Still, consistently spiced and complex broth along with everyday low prices mean if you generally get what you pay for; you’re definitely getting a steal here. More »
The second Scarborough entry on the list, this bright uptown eatery features the requisite aesthetic of a classic Toronto Vietnamese restaurant. Tile floors, large windows, a single room and as many tables as you can arrange in a row. Most days however, all those tables are crammed with locals dropping by to consume a quick lunch of aromatic noodle soup or bun bowls bursting with herbage. A welcome Asian oasis in the midst of myriad middle eastern options. More »
A clean, sharp, contemporary interior and trendy local following are fast becoming the M.O. of this stylish noodle house located in the increasingly popular Bloordale neighbourhood. Slightly smaller portions are offset by an intensely star-anise infused broth, while non-noodle options include treats such as duck salad and grilled goat. A relatively upscale experience at a comfortably (and familiarly) competitive price. More »
The sole representative of North York on this list, this casual eatery is consistently buzzing with both local Vietnamese patrons and overspill from nearby Yorkdale mall. Bowls of pho come with enough meat to host a bbq, but the star of the show here is the incendiary bun bo hu, served with fistfuls of fresh veggies, tender bits of pork knuckle and the earthy, tangy broth of shrimp paste, chili and lemongrass. Fuel up for that shopping spree in affordable style. More »