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The best pho in San Francisco
Photograph: Courtesy Kevin’s Noodle HouseThe best pho in San Francisco

The best pho in San Francisco and Oakland

Looking for the antidote to a foggy day? The best pho in San Francisco and Oakland will warm you right up

Written by
Clara Hogan
Contributors
Lauren Sheber
&
Shoshi Parks
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If you’re craving an intensely comforting dish — one that will make you feel all the feels — the best pho in San Francisco and Oakland will have you smiling from ear to ear.

Pho, a Vietnamese soup dish made up of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and meat, is a year-round staple in the unpredictable (ok, mostly foggy) San Francisco climate. The beloved Vietnamese noodle soup offers up a wide range of northern- and southern-style interpretations in kitchens across the city. Some of the best pho shops in San Francisco have been around for decades and offer a homey atmosphere, while others bring modern vibes that are no less heartwarming.

From recipes passed down through the generations to new spins on this delicious comfort food, no two bowls are alike. In other words, you’ll need to try them all, won’t you? Get started by checking out our list of the best pho in San Francisco and Oakland.

RECOMMENDED: The best restaurants in San Francisco

Best Pho in San Francisco and Oakland, ranked

  • Restaurants
  • Tenderloin
  • price 1 of 4

Open for nearly 20 years (and counting), this Vietnamese institution is still revered for its simple, flavorful pho ga. The Hanoi-style restaurant’s recipe hasn’t changed much over the years, and that’s a good thing: light, gingery broth bathes a generous serving of free-range poached chicken. The rice noodles here — thicker and chewier than the usual vermicelli — are a work of art.

  • Restaurants
  • Tenderloin
  • price 1 of 4

This mom-and-pop shop, just down the street from Turtle Tower, serves up huge bowls of soup at wallet-friendly prices. Inside, giant pots simmer in the open kitchen and infuse the bright, bi-level restaurant with sumptuous flavor. The specialty here is beef pho, a bowl of rich broth and noodles laden with thinly sliced rare steak. Pro tip: complete your meal with fresh coconut water for the perfect pairing.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Oakland
  • price 1 of 4

This unassuming, family-owned Vietnamese joint in Oakland is known for their signature beef stew — a hearty mix of beef brisket, flank, shank, and tendon with carrots and onions. Order it with vermicelli rice noodles and you’ve got a decadent bo kho pho. On Wednesday nights, it’s worth eating inside the spacious, no-frills dining room where you can get a side of karaoke with your noodles.

  • Restaurants
  • Outer Sunset
  • price 1 of 4

Kevin's family-run mini-chain has several locations throughout the greater Bay Area, but the Sunset outpost is by far the most popular. Their recipe — a sweet, spiced broth that’s flavored with cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise — has been handed down over generations, so it’s no surprise there’s often a line out the door. But never fear, the wait looks worse than it is: brusque-but-efficient servers (and iPad ordering) will have you slurping away in no time. For connoisseurs, the pho bo is unmatched, packed with thin-sliced steak, well-done brisket, flank, tendon, and tripe.

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  • Restaurants
  • SoMa
  • price 1 of 4

A busty mannequin wearing a "Miss Saigon" sash greets customers at this eclectic SoMa eatery dressed up in lime green paint, elaborate chandeliers, drapery, and plenty of Christmas lights. The pho tai mem (affectionately referred to as 17b, after its designation on the menu) is the star of the show, packed with generous chunks of tender filet mignon submerged in rich, spicy broth topped with rice noodles, red onions, and herbs. This is Vietnamese comfort food at its best.

  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Oakland
  • price 1 of 4
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This East Oakland restaurant has quite the following — it’s often rated one of (if not the) favorite pho joints in the East Bay. The bun bo hue and pho ga are equally beloved (each has its own rich broth) and both are served with plenty of herbs, veggies, and condiments. Expect a crowd on the weekends; good pho comes to those who wait.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Duboce Triangle
  • price 2 of 4

Jasmine Garden is set with white tablecloths, an unexpectedly fancy touch in a city where the best pho is typically found at hole-in-the-wall establishments. The pho here will please eaters of all types: traditionalists throng for the addictive lemongrass broth in the bun bo hue (a spicy beef pho from the Hue region of Vietnam) while vegetarians rejoice in a solid vegetable pho that’s heaped with bok choy, tofu, carrots, broccoli, and cilantro. The hearty soup is served at all hours of the day but only appears on the lunch menu, so be sure to ask if you can’t find it listed.

  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Russian Hill
  • price 1 of 4

Craving a late night bowl of pho? Look no further than North Beach’s My Canh, and don’t be afraid to arrive long after the sun goes down (it stays open six days a week until 2am). Teeming with flavor and spice, My Canh’s complex beef, chicken, and seafood broths will sober you right up after a night out. And while pho is off the table for vegetarians, you can’t go wrong with the tasty vegetable vermicelli. Take note: this place is cash only.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Outer Sunset
  • price 1 of 4
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The narrow, brightly lit contender to nearby Kevin's isn't much to look at. But then again, no one's lining up for the ambiance, are they? They're here for the curry coconut pho, an unusual spin on the classic recipe that involves a spicy coconut milk broth chock-full of vermicelli noodles, chicken, potatoes, and bean sprouts (a spritz of lemon lends an acidic kick to the flavorful broth). If you have room to spare, grab an order of garlic noodles on the side.

  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Chinatown
  • price 1 of 4

It's easy to miss this cash-only restaurant, tucked away down a tourist-free Chinatown alley. Start with the imperial roll (you won’t regret it) before moving on to the pho. If you’re not squeamish about animal parts, get the bun bo hue — it’s a spicy soup with rice vermicelli, beef shank, pig's knuckles, beef tendon, and blood cubes. More conservative eaters will love the velvety five-spice chicken pho with extra-thick noodles that hold up to the hot broth. For a caffeine jolt, try Golden Star’s strong Vietnamese iced coffee while you’re at it.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Oakland
  • price 1 of 4

Bun bo hue is the star at Pho King. Their version keeps things interesting with pork knuckle, beef slices, meatballs, and pork blood in a spicy broth spiked with star anise. At less than $10 for an extra large bowl, this mom-and-pop shop is as beloved by the Vietnamese community as it is by the rest of the East Bay.

  • Restaurants
  • Mission
  • price 2 of 4

You’ll find round woven lamps that cast a soft glow, a colorful mural adorning the back wall, and a handful of beers on tap behind Mau's gleaming wooden counter — purists may scoff at this hipster version of a Vietnamese joint, but if they just gave it a chance, the food would convince them otherwise. The restaurant, a collaboration between the former Slow Club chef Sante Salvoni and Tin Vietnamese owner Hung Dang, dishes a deftly spiced pho bo (served with pickled onions) and gingery pho ga that are particularly satisfying, especially when topped with a dollop of the restaurant's homemade sriracha.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Russian Hill
  • price 1 of 4

Pho Tan Hoa specializes in the tried-and-true standard where simple and fresh ingredients shine through the tightly-packed space’s cacophony of raucous eaters. In the traditional pho bo, the dark broth and thin, chewy rice noodles can be ordered with well-done brisket, rare steak, flank, tendon, tripe, or beef balls. For a change of pace, try the pho kho — the noodles are served “dry,” as the broth is served on the side.

  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • SoMa
  • price 2 of 4

Before opening Mau in 2012, co-conspirator Hung Dang was busy with his first love, Tin, a space that’s just as inviting as his second restaurant: expect a red accent wall, flattering lighting, and long tables for larger groups. Tin is family-run and specializes in southern-style pho. The broth here is lighter (but no less flavorful than their Tenderloin contemporaries) and comes in versions with poached chicken, rare beef and brisket, or tofu and vegetables. Due to its high-traffic SoMa location, Tin tends to draw a high-tech clientele who, after all, love pho just as much as the rest of us.

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  • Restaurants
  • Vietnamese
  • Inner Sunset
  • price 2 of 4

Offering what is quite possibly the largest bowl of pho in town, Yummy Yummy is best reserved for eaters with a strong stomach. Their classic pho xe lua is virtually spilling over with flank, tripe, tendon, beef balls, and steak so rare that it keeps cooking in the super hot broth as you dig in. If beef isn’t your thing, select from ten other noodle soup dishes, including the mi vit tiem made with egg noodles, black trumpet mushrooms, and duck thigh.

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