Some of the best restaurants are not run by a celebrity chef or are written up in the top magazines. Many are run by people you’ve never heard of, who have non-existent marketing budgets, yet turn out high quality, delicious food year after year. What’s more, many of them are tucked into strip malls amidst quinceanera shops, check cashing spots and the like. One rainy night, desperate for something delicious and comforting, I asked ny good pal-in-my-phone, Siri, to “find Vietnamese Noodle Bowl restaurants near me.” My trusty little smart phone friend led me to Pho Duy, tucked way at the back corner of a U-shaped strip mall in Aurora, off of Peoria and 6th Avenue that included a donut shop, small nightclub and plasma center. What a combo! I knew this was going to be great!
Decorated the way pretty much every other Vietnamese noodle bowl place is (simply, in light colors with Asian art and TV’s in every corner), I was struck by how busy the place was. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one having a deep need for a Vietnamese noodle bowl that night. I wasn’t feeling like dining alone that particular night (although sometimes I love doing that). No, that particular night, I just wanted to get back home, curl up in front of a good movie and dig into a bowl of deliciousness. So I got my order “to go.”
When I got it home, I was instantly impressed with the staff because of how they had packaged everything. The noodles, grilled pork, crispy egg rolls, fresh veggies and hot broth were all divided to maintain texture and temperature so they could all be reassembled in a big bowl. My take-home meal was just as it would have been had I dined in. It was a good sign about the quality of the place.
On return trips, my companions and I have enjoyed that same noodle bowl (the combo of egg roll, pork and grilled shrimp is addictive!), the Meatball noodle bowl (the thinly-sliced Vietnamese version), Shrimp bowl plus, Vietnamese iced coffee and mango and strawberry boba teas. Every time, everything has been just what you’d expect from these noodle bowl places: cheap (under $10), fast service, rich flavors, elegant broths, a great variety of textures and layers of freshness (I love the plate of fresh basils, mung bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapeno slices and more to add into any of the bowls.)
Beyond the food and friendly service, what also impresses me time and time again is the variety of diners who come to this tucked away restaurant. It’s a little United Nations with people from just about every ethnicity. It does my heart good to see all these people gathering over a single cuisine. Appreciation of good food, exotic flavors and decent prices is universal. It makes me feel even better about the place, and really fortunate that my phone helped me find another strip mall treasure.
Pho Duy restaurant is located at 680 Peoria St, Aurora, at the back corner of the strip mall to the east (as opposed to the strip mall on the right side of the street). I could not find a reliable website for them but their phone number is (303) 367-9884.