Fans of phở have a new place to enjoy the savory Vietnamese soup. Phở Cali Vietnamese Noodles Restaurant opened Dec. 17 in the former Lan Chi’s building at 1320 Belknap St. in Superior.
For the uninitiated, phở (pronounced “fuh”) is a hearty Vietnamese noodle soup traditionally made with a rich beef or chicken broth and wide, white rice noodles. It’s typically served with thin slices of beef and comes with fresh toppings on the side such as bean sprouts, cilantro, lime wedges and peppers. Phở Cali has various versions of the soup, including one with filet mignon and one with meatballs.
An internet search shows restaurants with the name Phở Cali in a number of states, but Kyle Nguyen, who has been helping the owners launch the new Superior business, says it’s not a franchise or chain.
Nguyen says “Cali” is a style of phở that originated in California, which has the highest population of Vietnamese Americans in the country. He describes the soup as traditionally Vietnamese but “adapted to Cali” and “tasting slightly different” from phở you would find in Vietnam because the recipe has been tweaked to include additional fresh ingredients.
Andy and Lynn Tran own and manage Phở Cali. They’re from California but moved to the Twin Ports a couple of years ago. Lynn says they initially planned to open a restaurant in Duluth but the cost of opening an eatery in Superior was lower.
The old Lan Chi’s space proved a good location. Before opening, the Trans spent four months modernizing and updating the restaurant’s décor and working with their chef to come up with a menu that includes more than 100 dishes.
In addition to phở, the menu includes other traditional offerings such as thịt nướng, grilled pork served over steamed rice and Vietnamese sandwiches (often called “banh mi”) featuring pork, chicken or beef topped with cilantro, daikon, carrots and peppers. Stir fried dishes, curries, chow mein and vegetarian options are available too.
The pricing is reasonable. Nguyen says a large order of phở (about $9) will feed two people—or one very hungry person. Most entrees are under $10. Sandwiches start at $3.50.
Phở Cali doesn’t serve alcoholic drinks but customers can choose from unique items like Vietnamese coffee (hot or cold), smoothies and bubble tea.
Lynn takes pride in offering fresh ingredients and healthier menu options. She says the food is cooked with very little oil, unlike many Americanized Chinese restaurants, and includes more fresh vegetables. Even Phở Cali’s noodles are fresh (not dried) and ordered from the vendor weekly.
So far, business has been steady and the customer response to Phở Cali has been good. “Many customers have been saying they’re glad to have this type of restaurant in Superior,” says Nguyen.
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