I was on my way to Lafayette 148's flagship designer store - not sure, frankly, that it existed for walk-ins but extremely curious, when I passed by a sidewalk A-frame signboard easel advertising American and Vietnamese breakfasts. Did I read that right? Seeking fuel before shopping, I walked in to Bo CaPhe (222 Lafayette Street, tel: 646-882-1939) in Manhattan's Soho.
Situating myself at a counter stool (the optimal location for a solo Womantraveler - you see everything and it's fascinating), I explored the Vietnamese choices on the Brunch menu. I opted for the "Classic Pho" described as "national Vietnamese noodles soup, can be eaten at any time of day, noodles, bean sprouts, herbs." I was on a quest for a truly yummy Pho, having been disappointed in some of the Vietnamese restaurants I'd tested on both coasts and where the owners had veered too far from their fine roots to pseudo-Chinese or American preparations). Bo CaPhe makes it more authentic with what it describes as its Vietnamese-French identity.
Meanwhile, I was staring straight at the small bar frig containing the fresh menu ingredients in small bins that populate Bo CaPhe's healthy and light selections - carrots, cilantro bunches, daikon radish, cucumbers and more. Like many of the cool spots in Greenwich Village, Soho, Nolita, Chelsea and Downtown neighborhoods, CafePho is wedged into a narrow rectangular slot on the street, with the kitchen compressed in the back. Yet the flavors burst way beyond the seams, and it's received good reviews.
The Pho (pronounced "fuh"), with its deeply flavorful, long-simmering broth, rice noodles, meat and aromatic spices, is a northern Vietnamese street food that anchors the better Vietnamese cuisine that has migrated to the U.S. since the 1970s war. It was a hearty choice on a cool morning, like a giant bowl of tea with vegetables, and I was happily nurtured.