Authentic Vietnamese Food at Saigon Pho!

Camila Aguilar-Perez
December 2, 2022

If you veer off the common route along the Main Gate Square of the University of Arizona, you will find the scent of Vietnamese food wafting in from a hidden gem of a restaurant, Saigon Pho

 It is specifically located at the back entrance of the Paradise Bakery and offers a great selection of Vietnamese food that is sure to wow your taste buds. One of my personal favorites is the chicken pho. I started out unfamiliar with Vietnamese Cuisine, I was unsure what to order from a large variety of dishes. My friend eagerly suggested chicken pho and since then I’ve been coming back every week since.

Favorite Parts of the Menu

The part that sealed this dish as my favorite, was the warm feeling of the soup and the juiciness of the chicken mixed with the taste of the slurpy noodles. Every broth or soup is served with a plate on top of the dish that holds vegetable garnishes that include bean sprouts, sweet basil leaves, cilantro, sweet jalapeno peppers as a tribute to the Southwest.

After I finished my first few spoonsful of the chicken pho, I looked over the menu again to see what else they were serving that was equally as delicious. The menu is offered to the public on a double-sided laminated surface that is easy to read and understand. With vibrant colors and pictures, it was easy to decide what I wanted to eat. Specifically, the imagery of the spring rolls on the menu got me to order them because of the imagery on the menu that showed all of the ingredients inside. You could see how they were pork spring rolls that come cut into 4 individual pieces with a side of peanut sauce. The rolls were the perfect finish to my meal and the peanut sauce’s sweetness combined with the rolls savor taste was mouthwatering when combined with the spring roll. 

Saigon Pho prepares their Pho; made of broth, noodles, meat, and other variations, in a way that resembles the taste of home from when my mother attempted Vietnamese food.  Because of this it quickly became my comfort food. You might be asking yourself, what is the secret of this pho? The secret to its flavor is that the restaurant uses chicken instead of the customary beef, which gives it its wonderful lightness and refreshing taste when contrasted with the flavor of the noodles, although having beef pho is always an option.


As I was scanning the menu for the second time, one of the many appetizers that caught my eye was the baguette and I had to try it. It was a sandwich with a crunchy exterior and a soft, chewy interior that harnessed radishes, slices of cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. It is important to note that vegetarians must not stray away from Saigon Pho. My friend, Esther, is a vegetarian and she said she had a lovely experience experimenting with their tasty vegetarian options. She expressed that the Cajun tofu baguette was a great choice for non-meat eaters, and it is often her “go to” whenever we return to the restaurant. 

The Inside Scoop

According to Gigi, an employee that I interviewed, the restaurant opened up around 15 years ago as a family business. She chose to work here because, similar to me, she had a great first impression when eating here and stated that, “the setting, decorations, and the place makes me feel relaxed and the food makes the environment feel homey”. Her favorite dishes include the chicken pho, spring egg rolls, and Thai roll ups. 

…And Drinks!

The drinks are also exotic at Saigon Pho. From sugar cane juice to boba with blended fruit, Saigon made sure that their menu holds a variety of choices. I picked from the selection of blended boba smoothies, which are a type of tea-based drink that commonly consists of chewy tapioca balls. Their flavors range from Pina Colada, Strawberry, Honeydew, Mango, Guava and many more! I was surprised by the smooth and refreshing taste that the flavors from the boba balls incorporated into the drink. 

The Saigon Pho Experience

The food is not the only highlight at Saigon Pho. Once I stepped inside, the beautiful cherry decor seeped into me slowly and warmly as a bowl of pho on a cold winter’s day. I was embraced by the peaceful aura of the restaurant. It is like the second you walk in through the pull doors, your shoulders tense down, your ears perk up to the music, and you take a deep breath of the scent of Vietnamese food from the kitchen. The lacquered rosewood chairs and tables gave me a feeling of being in a formal restaurant, while the two large flatscreen TVs broadcasting public television or a soap opera directly from Saigon, Vietnam, project an air of casualness. The environment of the restaurant is what solidifies this restaurant as a must try, the delicious food is the added bonus. I really enjoy how the restaurant is full of people of different backgrounds and styles and it is never too crowded. The workers are attentive and easy to talk to when needed and the service is quick overall except when ordering an entree that requires more preparation such as curry. It is a restaurant where I can feel comfortable eating alone. I love to study and complete homework while I wait for my food to arrive, and I often find myself turning off the music playing from my headphones to enjoy the music playing from the restaurant’s televisions. Overall, Saigon Pho presents diners with a taste of adventure but also a taste of a new home away from home, all within steps of the UofA campus. 


Camila Aguilar is a freshman majoring in Biochemistry at the University of Arizona.