Let me explain Eat Street for anyone who might be an idiot: it’s a stretch of street, with lots to eat.
Hit Nicollet Ave. in Minneapolis between 24th St. and 28th St. and lose yourself in selection. Everywhere you look, open tables and award-winning menus await. If you want Mexican food, hit Poncho Villa; if you want to catch a concert and sip fancy cocktails, Icehouse; cocktails without music, Eat St. Social. Can’t buy groceries without getting a buzz on? The Wedge Table’s got’chu, fam. Donuts? Glam Doll. Pizza? Black Sheep. Here, Eater made a map. Look at all that red. Gets you excited, doesn’t it?
Oh, you’re wondering about pho? I am so glad you asked about pho! You’re stressing about the shortage of air in your front tires, you’ve already had to sit through three meetings, and it’s only Tuesday for Chrissakes. Of course you want to hear about pho! The best pho is on Eat Street, and there’s one spot right in the heart of the action. It’s got “pho” right in the name: Pho 79.
I don’t know what the 79 means. What I do know, is they load fat and tendons into your beef bowl for your pleasure. The broth is steamy and rich, and noodles are just right, and the space-time continuum just totally buckles during a meal here. It’s more than just pho; it’s the fastest slowdown you can have without yankin’ the emergency brake.
The building has two halves: one Pho 79, the other Caravelle Restaurant. The Pho 79 awning is blue and yellow, the Caravelle awning is yellow and blue, and I’m not sure the entire interior has a single thing that’s yellow or blue. A massage parlor awaits upstairs. Haven’t stopped up there quite yet.
Far as we can tell, you can order off either menu regardless of seating. We were led to a seat, heard the scrape of chair feet against the tile floor, and plop. Down we sat, and down went everything we’d been carrying with us that day. Glasses of water show up almost instantly.
The joint space has never been more than half-full when we’ve been there, but it always feels busy. Maybe it’s because the service staff gets around quickly; maybe it’s because we look out onto a busy street when sat by the window. Whatever the case, when I sit here, I feel like we’re in a slow-motion frame while the rest of the world whizzes around us. We open and close the menus quickly enough to fan ourselves. We know what we want; we just need the number.
Ideally, we’d be in that Jetsons future and have our pho instantly pop up in front of us. The wait isn’t long, though, we think. We never get much conversation done, but we never have much to do, but we’re pretty sure it’s a short wait.
Gaze upon this big bowl. Look at all of that broth. I take a long moment and hold my face over the steam. I inhale deeply. I really make myself look like a weirdo to anyone watching (nobody’s watching), squirt in sriracha and toss peppers in. Then, the frenzy sets in. My clumsy fingers all of a sudden hold chopsticks expertly. Noodles and meat bits get slurped, shoveled, and scooped into my face hole. Small, ladel-like spoons are at your table if you want to be classy, but your homie just puts up the bowl to his lips and guzzles the broth straight out of it. The noodles are soft, but not soggy; the meat is tender, and plenty. The broth is (orgasmic moan).
Within minutes, the bowls were reduced to drips and surface detritus. The only pause was when one of us dropped her spoon into her food, and had to grab another spoon to spoon out her spoon. Maybe we weren’t so apart from the blur after all. In fact, what if we were the blur and our savagery made everything else around us slow down?
The bill comes, and … remember the part about a $10 credit card minimum? We both tip around 20 percent, and that barely gets us over $10.
We’ve strolled from the Convention Center, sipping Grain Belt tallboys on the way in broad daylight, and come to a stop at Pho 79. We’ve shiver-dashed in from across the street, the chill of the frozen concrete creeping up our legs with each step. The exit is always the same, labored trudge back to the car. I drive home half-awake, find the couch, and everything stops.