A Love Letter From a Man to a Pho Restaurant

An ode to Than Brothers.

Than Brothers was voted Best Pho in the 2015 Best of Seattle Reader Poll. To view the other winners, go here.

Dearest Than Brothers,

I’ll never forget the time we met, back in 1999. I’d just moved to Seattle, and I spotted your sign amid many others. That little squiggle above the O in pho looked like a question mark, as in “Any interest?”

Cautiously, yes.

I must mention that you came on strong, immediately tempting me with that cream puff before the pho even arrived. I really wasn’t sure how to react. To this day, I still don’t. I want to bring it right to my mouth, but then I think of the delayed gratification of waiting. Deliberating this, I check out the rest of your offerings and decide what I want to do next.

Confession: When we first met, I had no idea what pho was. Luckily, you were easy to get to know. One glance at your menu profile, and, just as advertised, just “beef noodle soup.”

We started simple. My first was #1: rice-noodle soup with eye-round steak. Safe, in retrospect, yet still exciting. But we slowly evolved, adding a little brisket, then some well-done flank. As we got to know each other better, you showed off some of your more risqué parts. I’ll never forget the first time I sampled your tripe. Oh, and that soft tendon.

Eventually we made our way up to #14. You call it tai chin nam gau gan sach, while I know it as the works: eye-round steak, well-done flank, marble brisket, soft tendon, and tripe. Even when we don’t speak the same language, I feel like we can relate.

No matter my mood, you nourish me quickly. You deliver in mere minutes, with a delicate scent that stays with me for days, making me think of you and long for you and eventually return to you.

Why? For something so simple, you’re quite complex.

You come with a side of jalapeños, bean sprouts, a lime wedge, and the always-tantalizing Thai basil. I realize I can dress you up in so many ways. And as we got more experienced, you taught me to bring other items into our play. I didn’t know what to do with hoisin sauce, but you showed me the way: just drizzled on your meat. Soon, Sriracha and chili oil would spice things up.

You’re at once sweet and sometimes spicy, and both predictable but ever-changing.

You were the first to embrace me in a city where I knew virtually no one. I could come to you alone without fear of judgment. When I was sick, you’d heal me and give me comfort. And as our relationship grew, so did your presence as you added new locations. You always seemed to be at the right place at the right time. I always seem to come back to you. Than Brothers, I just can’t quit you. 7714 Aurora Ave. N., 527-5973, and other locations, thanbrothers.com

food@seattleweekly.com

 
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