Pho Kien Giang: A Humble Triumph in Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine

Pho Kien Giang: A Humble Triumph in Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine

All food enthusiasts, whether they admit it or not, share this wish in common: to be the authority on restaurant recommendations within their social circle. Specifically, we foodies want nothing more than to be the people who have the niche, undiscovered eateries on their lists; the unassuming restaurants that pack a huge punch with their food.

Pho Kien Giang is that restaurant. Eating here will not only delight your palate, but solidify your status as the go-to for food recs. While it’s not exactly undiscovered, this humble, family-owned eatery hasn’t gone mainstream just yet – but after eating here twice, I have no idea why. If you want a no-nonsense, insanely reasonable, and just downright delicious and authentic meal, this is your spot.

[Kiên Giang is a province of Vietnam, located in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam – Wikipedia. Pho pronounced FU, is a flavorful, hearty soup that is the national dish of Vietnam.]

Assorted Dishes
Assorted Dishes

And if you weren’t convinced already, this restaurant was recommended to me by none other than Chef Michael Roberts, Chef de cuisine of Wild Child. One of my best friends is Vietnamese, and this place has earned his seal of approval.

Located in a small commercial complex in Pinellas Park, Pho Kien Giang has been approached with skepticism by some first-time visitors, according to their Google Maps reviews. Especially after dusk, it’s understandable to pull up in front and think “Am I in the right place?” Don’t worry, though – the restaurant and the little Asian market next to it generate a lot of foot traffic in the area, so my friends and I have never felt unsafe.

In fact, its mysterious exterior only heightens the restaurant’s low key, secret, cool vibe.

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The interior is a large, simple dining room with ample seating, a combination of rectangle tables and chairs, and booths off to the side. One thing to be sure, is that there will always be people inside. Both my visits were on weekends, and I haven’t encountered any crazy crowds or had trouble with parking – but the restaurant is always buzzing.

Interior seating

Let’s skip to the good part, shall we?

Pho Kien Giang boasts an extensive, 3-page menu with dishes named in Vietnamese, accompanied by brief English descriptions. The menu is also numbered. One can find a dazzling array of authentic Vietnamese items – cult classics like the famed Vietnamese rice paper rolls, pho, and bun bo hue are available, and done incredibly well.

Menu page 1 Menu page 2

There’s a whole section for Pho, and there are more than ten options for which meats/cuts of meat you’d like. Arguably the most exciting part, is when you order Pho, you will receive a large plate stacked with bean sprouts, lime wedges, and so much Thai basil that I feel almost obligated to shove it into my bag and take it home to propagate.

These are meant to accompany the Pho, and they make the already-perfect dish even better. The beef-stock-based broth is always light and seasoned to perfection and the flat rice noodles are abundant and chewy – no matter which meats you choose. While all the dishes are incredible, the mark of authenticity is so evident in all of the noodle soups.

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 Bowl of pho
Dish 13 (Pho with eye round steak and meatballs)

Broth making is an art, and it’s immediately evident when one has been simmered slowly and seasoned with care. Every broth that comes out of Pho Kien Giang is packed with flavor.

Some other noodle soups we have tried are:

  • Bun bo hue – with pork-based broth, it’s more rich and loaded with spice and bold flavors, as is evident from the telltale red color and bright droplets of oil on the surface. In a testament to their authenticity, Pho Kien Giang does theirs with blood cubes and pork hock.
Dishes 19, 38 and 13
From left to right: 38 (Bun bo hue), 19, 13
  • Mi Hoanh Thanh Xa Xiu (Egg noodle soup with wontons and roast pork) – I found this to be a more savory-tasting broth than that of Pho; it seems more complex in flavor yet equally light on the palate. The roast pork was tender, and the wontons in all the soups were just tender little delights. The egg noodles offer a richer taste and more fulfilling sensation than rice noodles; think of the feeling of eating pasta.
Dish no. 22
No. 22 on the menu – Egg Noodle Soup with Wontons and Roast Pork, pictured with the accompanying toppings (Thai basil, lime, and bean sprouts).

Some other notable dishes are the $3.50 appetizers, like the various soups, and the $2.95 rice paper rolls. One serving is two generously filled rolls, and they come filled with roast pork, shrimp, and the classic fillings (rice noodles, herbs, etc.).

Appetizers 2, 8, and 5
From left to right, starting with the egg rolls in the center: Appetizers 2 (fried pork egg rolls), 8 (tendon soup), and 5 (wonton soup).

I tried broken rice for the first time, which is a very common dish in Vietnam that I had never heard of before. If you visit, make sure to take advantage of the various options; Pho is amazing, but when else will you get to eat such a diverse and unique array of authentic Vietnamese food?

The broken rice I got is pictured below, but it’s mainly rice with assorted meats and accompaniments. I shamelessly covered mine with the sauces offered at the table (hoisin, soy, fish sauce, sweet chili sauce – just to name a few), and relished.

Broken Rice
Dish 55 – Broken Rice

The value for money at this restaurant is truly astounding. The noodle soups, for example, come in huge bowls and you can upgrade it to a large size for merely $0.75. Truly some of the most reasonable and high-quality food offered in the area.

You simply cannot miss the drinks and desserts too, on the last page of the menu. My friend got this Chrysanthemum tea drink that we agreed was refreshing and sweet.

Iced chamomile tea drink
Iced chamomile tea drink

The specialty coffee lover in me goes absolutely wild for their authentic Vietnamese iced coffee (Ca phe sua da).

Vietnamese iced coffee
Vietnamese coffee being brewed in a traditional filter, dripping over condensed milk.

Words don’t do this drink justice; they use about a 50/50 ratio of condensed milk to brewed coffee, and the syrupy, strong coffee is pure bliss. That kind of taste cannot be replicated. They give you a cup with ice to pour it over once it’s brewed, and I dream about it regularly.

Did you know the reason why Vietnamese coffee has such a distinct taste, unlike anything you can buy at most coffee shops? The two most popular types of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta. Most mainstream specialty coffee shops around the world use Arabica beans, a fact that they usually publicize heavily since Arabica’s growing conditions make it more expensive. Vietnamese coffee is made from Robusta beans, which have a significantly higher caffeine content than Arabica beans, and also have a harsher taste. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense then, that the Vietnamese mix their strong coffee with rich condensed milk.

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Everyone on staff at Pho Kien Giang is very kind. Their service is perfectly fine but nothing amazing – which adds to the restaurant’s character. Have you too noticed that humble places like these where the staff doesn’t care that much about you, is where the best food comes out of? Haha.

We found that the staff speaks Vietnamese and English, both fluently. While having a Vietnamese best friend to accompany you and act as the designated order-er for the table is nice, it’s not mandatory.

In all seriousness, there’s truly no negatives of this restaurant. I love having an authentic eatery nearby that is so easy on the wallet and so high quality. South-east Asian cuisine is an absolute favorite of mine, and when done well, there’s just nothing like it. This hidden gem is a must-visit.

Pho Kien Giang
  • Readers Rating
  • Rated 4.7 stars
    4.7 / 5 (13 )
  • Your Rating

  • Pho Kien Giang
  • (727) 544-1393
  • Vietnamese, Pho, Spring rolls
    • Sun - Tue 10:00am - 9:00pm
    • Thu - 10:00am - 9:00pm
    • Fri - Sat 10:00am - 10:00pm
    • Sun - 10:00am - 9:00pm
  • View menu
  • 8730 49th St N #1, Pinellas Park, FL 33782, US

Vietnamese food

DISCLAIMER: Kevin, Lori, Abby, Haley, Lindsey & Mahika do not dine anonymously (this would be impossible) and we sometimes get free food (though never expected). However, we dine with the locals and we support our own. You will always get honesty in a respectful manner. We do not include any large national or regional chains in our ratings and reviews. We focus on independent locally owned eateries exclusively.

PLEASE NOTE: Reviews reflect a certain moment in time. Some restaurants stay extremely consistent over many years, and some change for the better or worse. Some things that may change are: chefs, recipes, food suppliers, ingredients, philosophies, ownership, etc. We always hope that you have the same good, or great experience we had.
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