By Heather Irwin
SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA -- When people find out I'm a food writer, their first question is usually, "How'd you get that gig?" When they find out what freelance food critics actually make and how often I get indigestion (or worse), the jealous looks on their faces slide off pretty quickly. The next question is, "Where's your favorite restaurant?" They're usually equally disappointed with that answer, too.
Truth is, picking a favorite restaurant is like picking a favorite child. They all have their charms...and their, well, not so delightful sides. You'd be surprised at how a great restaurant can have a seedy kitchen staff or even seedier waiters...or how a little hole in the wall joint down the street can serve up the most divine noodles you've ever laid chopsticks on.
So, when I'm asked, I typically turn the question back around. "What are you hungry for?" If nothing else it stalls them for a while, as I run through my mental Roladex.
A restaurant, however, that I find myself returning to again and again...and again, depending on just how rough a day it's been is Pho Vietnam in Santa Rosa. Decor, I'll say up front, isn't the strong suit here. Tucked into what is quite possibly the world's tackiest minimall, it's usually hot, packed with locals and all the counters are, er, a little sticky. But your'e not here for the ambiance, anyway. You're here for the noodles.
I'm a creature of habit, so each time, I order the A-6 (fresh springrolls with pork and shrimp) and the #36 glass noodles with BBQ pork, eggrolls and shrimp. The rolls are filled with noodles, lettuce, cilantro, mint and meat, and come with peanut dipping sauce which is frustratingly gone by the time you've eaten the second roll. A sweet mixture of vinegar, peppers and fish sauce is poured over the noodles, making the whole mess a slippery, drippy mess that can turn a bad day good. And that, I tell my friends, is what makes any restaurant my favorite.
If you go: Pho Vietnam, 711 Stony Point Rd # 8, Santa Rosa, 707.571.7687