Pho Em

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Photo credit: Vanessa Hon | Pho Em Facebook page

Ignore the sign over the door announcing Phobulous. Though it’s been awhile since the restaurant changed hands, the décor – inside and out – has taken longer to adjust. But that’s no reason to skip a meal here, where you’ll find a large menu of Vietnamese classics with a few Chinese dishes woven in.

White tablecloths, a shiny metal counter, and dark wood chairs combine with the bright green walls to bring a sense of fun and modernity to the restaurant, while a mural on the back wall adds a unique touch. But the special of the house is what sets Pho Em apart from the multitude of pho restaurants in the region: the deep, rich oxtail broth comes with big chunks of bone-on meat. Unlike the standard pho dishes, you’ll have to pay a little extra for noodles in this soup, but they’re superfluous and not necessary.

Beyond that, the menu carries a selection of pho in large and small sizes, wonton soup, grilled skewers, stir-fried egg noodles, salads, vermicelli bowls, rice dishes, and banh mi (sandwiches). The appetizer section adds even more variety, and the avocado smoothie is worth an order for its wonderous sweet and savory thickness.

While there are many of the standard-issue Vietnamese spots around the area, the presence of dishes that go above and beyond, such as the oxtail soup and avocado smoothie, as well as the wide variety of foods, indicates that Pho Em has plans to be more than just an occasional lunch stop. Which, after sipping that soup, seems to be good for all on the island.

Pho Em is located at 3033 78th Ave SE, Mercer Island, WA. Learn more at

Written by Naomi Tomky