Of Rice and Ramen: Get out of the Mac Bubble, and try iPho by Saigon


The house vermicelli sandwich

The egg rolls, house pho and house vermicelli sandwich, all available at iPho by Saigon. Photos by Ashley Hung ’16.

This review is dedicated to the members of the Macalester community whose favorite place to eat Vietnamese food is Indochin.

There’s nothing wrong with liking Indochin. It’s close to campus, inexpensive and I’ve definitely eaten at worse places. But here’s the thing about Indochin: it’s part of the often-alluded to and unbroken Mac Bubble. So many of us have chosen to study at Mac because of its location in such a culturally rich metropolitan area. What’s the point of being in the Twin Cities if you don’t get outside of a two-mile radius of Macalester’s campus?

Well I, for one, protest the Mac Bubble! I’m slowly but surely breaking my way out, finding myself farther and farther east down University Ave. each time. This week, I have brought myself to iPho by Saigon, as suggested by my pho connoisseur of a roommate. He enticed me with the description of the servers as “a bunch of cool guys with trendy haircuts.”

We parked around the block because it’s on University, so it’s easily accessible by Metro Transit, but parking is a little tricky. Walking up to the exterior, I could already smell the egg rolls. Within five minutes of ordering, our food was on the table. The restaurant is clean, efficient, and still less that $10 per person. One thing that stands out is the different size offerings of pho —for those days when you don’t feel like slurping down a gallon of noodles and broth, and for other days when you do.

We ordered four staples that you’ll find at almost all Vietnamese restaurants: the house pho (brisket, tendon, tripe, meatballs), a classic banh mi sandwich with roast pork and pate, egg roll and the house bun — or rice vermicelli salad (grilled pork, shrimp, meatballs and egg roll). It was all delicious. The broth for the pho was not as rich as I’ve had at other places, but for the speed with which it came out, it’s a great bet for a quick off-campus meal. Out of 5 stars, I give the atmosphere a 4, the food a 4, and the service a 4. I’m excited to try the grilled pork banh mi next time I visit.