Pho! I’ve actually been apprehensive about writing this post because ten years ago, I did not know Pho was even a food, but now, it’s one of my go-to comfort foods! My fear? I can’t do it justice. I’m not sure I can explain in words why I love this Vietnamese soup so much, but that just means you need to try it for yourself! There are several good Vietnamese restaurants in Cincinnati, but my clear favorite is Song Long in Roselawn. Song Long is a family business open since 1985. Same location. Same family. Same family recipes. In fact, one family member told me that to live in Cincinnati is to be part of the restaurant. That simple. Song Long has built a loyal following because of these traditions. I recently dined next to a couple who eats there every single Saturday. They know the menu forward and backward (and can pronounce everything correctly, which I learned I cannot)! This is loyalty.
A staple in Vietnamese culture, pho specifically refers to the noodles- white rice flour noodles. But, pho isn’t pho without a delicious and complex broth. Oh, this broth. Time. Layering. Herbs. It’s beautiful and simple and complicated at the same time. This is the kind of broth worthy of sipping straight from the bowl to ensure not a drop is wasted! At Song Long, when Pho is served, the noodles are placed in the broth with green onion, onion, and cilantro and then this comes with a side plate of garnishes consisting of bean sprouts, lemon, jalapeno, and basil. I get mine with thin slices of beef that finish cooking in the hot broth. I like that I can kind of assemble. I roll the pieces of fresh Thai basil up to release the essence of the herb, and then add that along with some freshly squeezed lemon. Because the bean sprouts aren’t sitting in the broth ahead of time, they still have a bit of a crunch which provides a nice texture. Deeply aromatic! I don’t know what all goes into the making of that broth, but it smells and tastes divine! After assembling it to my satisfaction, I take my chop sticks in one hand, soup spoon in the other and dig in! Twist the noodles up, get some broth, and slurp away! By the way, I’ve been told slurping is not rude, but rather complimentary!
In addition to ordering Pho, the couple we met on our last visit, encouraged us to try Bun Bo Hue because they knew we like soup and we like spicy. Basically, we became fast foodie friends. When we found out how often they eat at Song Long, the interrogation began! My list of future items to try is ready to go! But back to Bun Bo Hue. This is a spicy lemongrass and beef broth with round rice noodles and beef slices. Again, this soup has a bundle of perfectly selected herbs- immediately fragrant when the bowl hits the table. Now, I wrote this post to highlight Pho, but this broth is badass. Its got heat and it’s heartwarming! Addictive. Slurp away!
We went to Song Long for lunch last time so we ordered off the lunch menu. We had hot tea, two spring rolls (yummy), two big bowls of soup, and a Vietnamese coffee all for only $21.25. Seriously a steal! Plus, you get fortune cookies (of course) and almond cookies at the end. Oh, and as soon as you sit down to dine, you get a bowl of crispy noodles to snack on! Can’t be beat. The dinner menu is completely affordable as well.
My tradition at Song Long is to end the meal by ordering Vietnamese coffee. Song Long uses Chicory coffee from Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. It’s individually brewed with a small metal French drip filter into a glass containing sweetened condensed milk. When the brewing is complete, pour over ice. It’s rich, creamy, and dark!
Song Long might not be in a trendy or swanky neighborhood, but it’s incredible food in a great environment. The decor feels authentic; it’s lovely and there’s traditional music playing in the background. We love this place! When I say I crave it, it’s so true! I do!
Tip: Closed on Sunday!
GO THERE (Song Long)! TRY THAT (Beef Pho, Bun Bo Hue, Vietnamese Coffee)!