Build the Pho Delivers Big Bowls of Delicious Vietnamese Noodle Soup in Uptown

The restaurant is owned by Sheng Long Yu, who operates a dozen other Asian eateries in the area

click to enlarge Build the Pho is now open at Uptown - Douglas Trattner
Douglas Trattner
Build the Pho is now open at Uptown

It can be a challenge to keep track of all the restaurant comings and goings at Uptown in University Circle, but one new entry is a welcome arrival that is worth seeking out.

Build the Pho (11440 Euclid Ave., 216-999-7090), as the name suggests, is a build-your-own-bowl-style Vietnamese noodle shop. It is located on the Museum of Contemporary Art side of Euclid and, in fact, enjoys views of Judy’s Hand Sculpture from the rear of the dining room. The airy two-level space, like many in the area, leans industrial, with smooth concrete floors, exposed HVAC and acres of glass. But this dining room is warmed up with bamboo tabletops, Asian art and a roomy bar that's ideal for singles and doubles. Upbeat pop music fills the sizeable restaurant.

It's certainly not new for a restaurant to leverage technology such as QR code-based menus and ordering systems, but it is a rarity for pho restaurants in this area. It's particularly effective in this application given the amount of customization that diners enjoy while ordering the main dishes. Simply scan the code and begin tapping in your order. In the case of the pho, diners start by picking a choice of noodle (rice, egg or vermicelli), broth (beef or vegan) and proteins (rare beef, beef trip, tendon, beef brisket, meatballs, tofu). Guests can double up or triple up on meats simply by selecting that option. A slight twist comes into play with customary fresh toppings like bean sprouts, scallions, jalapeno slices and limes. They are free and optional, but they arrive in the bowl as opposed to on the side.

Just because the pho is easy to order and quick to arrive (bowls land on the table minutes after you tap "submit order") doesn't mean the pho isn't serious. The beef broth is flavorful without being heavy or oily. My two-protein bowl ($13.95) included large, thin-sliced pieces of tender brisket and plenty of crunchy, gelatinous pieces of tendon. There are heaps of noodles and plenty of fresh toppings. Tables are topped with Sriracha and hoisin sauce and fish sauce is available by request.

click to enlarge Build the Pho is now open at Uptown - Douglas Trattner
Douglas Trattner
Build the Pho is now open at Uptown
Starters all cost $5.95 and include a trio of hot and crispy spring rolls, orders of bouncy, spongy fish cakes, summer rolls and chicken wings. Despite placing my order all at once, the "starters" arrived well after the pho. The beauty of the digital system is that it's a breeze to order more food if you're still hungry or when late arrivals join the party. What you cannot do, however, is pay the bill in the app. That still needs to be done through a server.

The restaurant, which opened in June, is owned by Sheng Long Yu. If the name sounds familiar it's because he operates a dozen other Asian eateries in the area, including  Shinto, Kenko Sushi, Dagu Rice Noodle, Hell’s Fried Chicken and, immediately next door, the Sweet Spot. 

click to enlarge Build the Pho is now open at Uptown - Douglas Trattner
Douglas Trattner
Build the Pho is now open at Uptown

About The Author

Douglas Trattner

For 20 years, Douglas Trattner has worked as a full-time freelance writer, editor and author. His work on Michael Symon's "Carnivore," "5 in 5" and “Fix it With Food” have earned him three New York Times Best-Selling Author honors, while his longstanding role as Scene dining editor garnered the award of “Best...
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