Pho 96 keeps it warm and simple

Categories: A Federal Case

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Mark Antonation
Pho 96
In A Federal Case, I'll be eating my way up Federal Boulevard -- south to north -- within Denver city limits. I'll be skipping the national chains and per-scoop Chinese joints, but otherwise I'll report from every vinyl booth, walk-up window and bar stool where food is served. Here's the report on this week's stop...

Mexican. Pho. Mexican. Pho. Mexican. Pho. Are you sensing a pattern here? Don't get too used to it, because this week's destination on my all-Federal tour is Pho 96 -- the last restaurant before Mississippi, a key signpost that I'll be entering a zone with more diversity (although far fewer Mexican restaurants). In addition to pho houses, the next couple of blocks offer other Vietnamese specialties like banh mi sandwiches and boba teas, as well as restaurants peddling the cuisines of Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Get ready to fasten your seatbelts as I chauffeur you through a series of pothole-riddled parking lots, strip malls in various states of rehabilitation, and tiny dining rooms serving some of the best food in Denver.

See also:
- Carnitas Estilo Michoacan: Take the chilaquiles and run
- Pho Le: So pho, so good (and porky)
- Gorditas Doña Lidia is the Mrs. Garrett of Federal Boulevard

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Mark Antonation
Pho with rare steak and tendon, my go-to order
But first, relax while I enjoy a little noodle soup at Pho 96. The owners of this pho shop run a quiet, tidy operation. Subdued and polite aromas beckon to you like distant relatives meeting you as you disembark into a modern airport after a long flight. It's not at all the sensory overload of parachuting into a steamy jungle of spices, fryer oil, fish sauce and murk. The menu is precise and edited, with four brief sections dividing all dishes into noodle soups, noodle bowls, rice plates and appetizers. There's little to entice the adventurous or scare the novice, save for the standard pho beef options of tripe and tendon, which are neatly sliced and mildly flavored at Pho 96.

My wife and I combed the menu for something unique or unfamiliar before settling on an appetizer of chicken wings, a bowl of pho with rare steak and tendon, and a combination rice plate that covered all options -- a little grilled beef, pork, chicken, and shrimp laid out over bright, fresh lettuce with a couple of dainty fried egg rolls tucked next to a dome of rice.

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Mark Antonation
Rice plate with grilled meats and egg rolls.
The food at Pho 96 is all prepared and served with the same care and precision as the menu layout. The chicken wings sported crisp, golden-brown skins around juicy interiors, even if the seasoning was minimal and the accompanying sauce was only vaguely hot and tangy. The grilled meats on the rice plate were tender and shot through with just the right amount of char. The pho broth was pleasantly beefy, but with no complexity or distinguishing character.

Continue reading for more from Pho 96.


Location Info

Pho 96

2990 W. Mississippi Ave., Denver, CO

Category: Restaurant


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3 comments
kezzamcdezza
kezzamcdezza

Get the green waffle at Ba Le Sandwiches. I think it's made with pandan. Whatever it is, it's one of my favorite Federal food items (second to Lao Wang's soup dumplings of course!)

monopod
monopod

Just want to reiterate how much I love this column - you're doing a service to everyone who drives down Federal and wonders how to sort out the gems.  Can't wait to get into the next section past Mississippi!

Mantonat
Mantonat topcommenter

@monopod Thanks! I'm also looking forward to the next couple of blocks. 

Anyone have any experience with the King's Court?

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