TOP OF THE TOWN

5280 THE DENVER MAGAZINE

BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT

DENVER DINING GUIDE 2006

BEST OF 2007: BEST REALLY INTERNATIONAL BREAKFAST

Some people are willing to take a chance on unfamiliar cuisines at dinner, some will risk it at midday. But for Denver’s true gastronauts, breakfast is when you earn your stripes. And there’s no better (or more delicious) international wake-up call than Pho 79.

At any time of the day, the only thing on the menu is pho — but there are three sizes (the small is huge, the large big enough for a family) and countless DIY options (from simple meatballs and flank steak to the stronger and tastier tripe and tendon), and the tangled jungle of basil, lime, chiles, and sprouts that comes with every order is all you need to construct the perfect breakfast.

Throw in a tall glass of iced Vietnamese coffee that’s like the second cousin of nitromethane, and you’ll never look at a plate of eggs and bacon the same way again.”

BEST OF 2006: BEST ASIAN BREAKFAST

“Soup is good food — especially for breakfast — and there’s no better place to start slurping than Pho 79. There are three local links in this short Vietnamese chain, and any of them is an ideal spot for an eye-opening bowl of hot pho and a cool glass of coffee that delivers like a fix of crystal meth.

Our favorite outlet, though, is Aurora’s Pho 79, which is cramped, bunkerish and full at nearly all hours with neighbors and wanderers, Vietnamese families and solo adventurers.

At the start of each day, servers prepare dozens, maybe hundreds of coffee setups on sheet trays that are kept in a service area just off the kitchen, then devote the rest of their energy to making wonderful pho, the only other thing the restaurant serves, in all its variations, from squeaky meatball bo vien to the more esoteric tripe and tendon options”

BEST OF 2005: BEST BREAKFAST SOUP

“Pho — that beef-broth-and-rice-noodle soup that’s the most ubiquitous offering in Vietnamese cuisine — is always eaten for breakfast. It’s always eaten for lunch, too, and dinner on the streets of Da Nang, and as a midnight snack by drunken scooter kids in Saigon trying to sober up for the long ride home.

But as a breakfast dish, pho is unsurpassed, and no one in town does it better than Pho 79. With one broth and a million different combinations of meats, herbs, spices, and noodles, breakfast at Pho 79 can be a never-ending journey through the flavors of the Far East.

But by nine in the morning, the Aurora outlet, at least, can be so packed full of hungry neighbors coming from the Japanese-Korean-Viet-Thai neighborhoods surrounding Havana Street that there’s no space left for the casual culinary tourists.”

BEST OF 2005: BEST VIETNAMESE COFFEE

“When you order Vietnamese coffee at Pho 79, the waiter warns you that it’s strong. When he brings it to the table, he warns you again that the house makes it powerful, and to be careful.

And after waiting for the peaceful drip-drip-drip of the tin filter to finish and the hot coffee to bleed down through the ice to the layer of sweetened, condensed milk on the bottom of the glass, you taste it and know that the waiter had only your best interests in mind.

This stuff is like drinking sweet, coffee-flavored crack: It’s addictive, it’s cheap, and one glass will pin your eyelids back to the top of your head for twelve hours. So take your waiter’s advice and be careful: This stuff ain’t for amateurs.”