Top 3 Best Pho in the Tenderloin

Pho at Tuyet Mai in the Tenderloin San Francisco

The Tenderloin has a bad rep, yes.

Historically, it’s always been bad here. This part of downtown San Francisco is called the “Tenderloin” because police officers used to get paid more to patrol this nasty area of the city, and were able to afford pricier cuts of meat, such as beef tenderloin.

This is where the homeless call home. It’s where rickety shopping carts packed with a lifetime of belongings crawl the streets squeaking past the makeshift flea markets that line the sidewalk floors. However, once you look past the neon-lit liquor stores located on every corner and the sleazy dive bars that stink of cigarette stained carpet, you’ll find yourself at the corner of Eddy and Larkin, where you will be greeted by the red and gold gateway to Little Saigon—home of the best pho in the city.

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve pretty much been traveling nonstop, only spending a few days here at home. And boy did I choose the right time to travel—smack dab in the middle of the worst storm to hit San Francisco  in decades. I don’t usually eat out much on my own, but after a few delayed flights and nearly missing a job interview, I think I deserve a big bowl of steaming hot pho.

With dozens of pho places in Little Saigon alone, how is one supposed to choose? Well I’ve gone ahead and narrowed down the overwhelming selection to include my top 3 pho places. You can thank me later.

Top 3 Pho in the Tenderloin

1. Pho Tan Hoa

Jones and O’Farrell

Dry Beef Pho in the Tenderloin San Francisco

This place may not be located in Little Saigon, but they make some pretty legit pho here. Although their traditional beef combo pho is pretty good, I come here for the dry pho.

What’s dry pho?

It’s basically a bowl of pho noodles with all of its ingredients, that comes with a separate bowl of broth.

Why is it so delicious?

The noodles don’t get overcooked as it’s sitting in the hot broth waiting for you to slurp them up. With every bite of noodles I wash it down with a big gulp of hot beef broth. The broth here is deeply flavored, and you can definitely taste the seasonings they put in there—including cinnamon.

2. Golden Lotus

Larkin and Ellis

Beef Pho from Golden Lotus with Salted Plum drinkWagyu Beef Pho in the Tenderloin San Francisco

Yes, this place is located in the same exact spot where Turtle Tower used to be, which is located just a few doors down.  Forget the lines out the door at TT (slightly overrated in my opinion), come here for an equally satisfying bowl of pho.

I love this place not only because it’s literally a 2 minute walk from my apartment, but because they use wagyu beef! The beef slices are extremely tender and everything just tastes incredibly fresh. I also love that the noodles here are slightly wider than traditional vermicelli-style rice noodles. The broth here is on the lighter side, yet perfectly seasoned. The service is excellent and the people here are so nice—a rarity for authentic Vietnamese places. I’m also a fan of their salted plum soda, the perfect salty sweet drink to pair with a hot bowl of pho. Click on the link for an easy recipe to make at home.

3. Tuyet Mai

Hyde and Geary

Beef Pho from Tuyet Mai in the Tenderloin San Francisco

Have you ever noticed the bright neon green storefront on Hyde St.? Well this is the place. There’s no way that you’ll miss it. Formerly known as Ngoc Mai, this place is very small, with the kitchen being only half the size of the dining room.

However, from this closet-sized kitchen, they pump out some pretty good pho. It’s nothing that will blow your mind, but the pho here is quite dependable and comes in a hefty portion. They are actually known for their bun bo hue, that uncelebrated spicy beef noodle soup that only seems like an after thought on most Vietnamese menus. Here it is their specialty, and I felt like a fish out of water for being the only person in the restaurant who didn’t order it. If their bun bo hue tastes as good as their pho, I’m definitely coming back to try it.


3 thoughts on “Top 3 Best Pho in the Tenderloin


    You did it again. As soon as your post went live, you know I had to jump on this. I tried Golden Lotus today (number one was too far from my work site), and let me tell you!!!!!!!! LET . ME . TELL . YOU!!!! I would usually never subject my tastebuds to a place with such a cheesy name, but I guess I should never judge a pho joint by its name. THAT WAGYUUUU BEEF. I was in heaven; every bite was like a kiss from an angel, but probably better, and tons more delicious. I am coming back and getting a large, even if I can’t finish it, I will devour that meat. I WILL DEVOUR DAT MEAT. Thanks for the reviews, ShefSherry; can’t wait to try the other two places.


    • HawnFawn! I’m so happy you tried it. A slice of heaven can truly exist in the Tenderloin—in the form of wagyu beef pho. When you come back to get that large, I’ll meet you there and together we shall disappear briefly into tender beef heaven. Dry pho had happened on a weekday when Carline was out of school and I was unemployed lol. But there’s a new dry pho place that we should definitely try! Girls date?

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