Placing my bet on Phở Dollar

Pho-Dollar-Buffalo-NY-5When out foraging for food, sometimes the most unexpected surprises can be the most welcoming. That was the case yesterday when I stumbled upon Phở Dollar Vietnamese Restaurant and Bar. Don’t let the the name fool you. There is nothing “dollar” about this restaurant, and I am betting that there is a “lost in translation” reason for the name, rather than a by-design marketing gimmick afoot. No matter, once you get by the name, the restaurant is charming in a modern traditional Vietnamese sort of way – even endearing. From bubble tea to karaoke and LED mood lighting, Phở  Dollar (it should have been called Phở Real), is captivating and a welcome diversion from whatever cuisine it is that has got you hung up at the moment.

There’s not a lot of Vietnamese food in Buffalo, and when you do run across it, chances are that it has been watered down with one or two other ethnic cuisines, which is too bad. Phở Dollar is the real deal. The extensive menu is swimming with bun/vermicelli bowls, com dia/rice dishes, phở noodle soups, hot pots, summer rolls, salads, wraps, rolls and stir fries. Unfortunately, vegetarians will have a hard time navigating around the meet-laden menu (pork, chicken, beef, seafood)… though if you’re a meat eater then you’re likely to think that you’ve died and gone to heaven.

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Phở Dollar opened this past Wednesday, and I couldn’t wait to get in through the front door to check it out. I was excited to see a traditional Vietnamese restaurant open on the West Side, and felt that this was the perfect addition to the growing ethnic food offerings around Grant-Ferry. The family-run business helped to make my initial visit very comfortable and relaxing. I sat at the bar and was greeted right away, and was even offered a quick tour of the place. It was around noon, and the flat screen TVs were already broadcasting karaoke sessions – apparently the owners, staff and customers had been up late the night before singing karaoke. In a couple of weeks, the plan is to get set up with a full bar and break out the microphones whenever inspiration strikes. Truth be told, Phở Dollar is the perfect setup for such a social activity, and I bet that it would be a complete riot to go to dinner and watch the regulars belt out broken English versions of ‘Like A Virgin’.

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When I found out that Phở Dollar offered boba (bubble tea), I immediately ordered a taro, complete with taro pearls. What I soon learned was that instead of the normal gummy tapioca pearls, the recipe called for actual fruit pearls that popped (almost like salmon roe). The addition of the fruit pearls made the drink even sweeter and more delicious. From there I ordered a vegetarian phở, which turned out to have some beef stock in it (they warned me), which was fine… I took one for the team this time. In all honesty it was the first time in a long time that I missed being a carnivore instead of a rainy day pescatarian. The phở was served with the usual accompaniments of sprouts, basil shoots, slices peppers and sauces. There was also plenty of shrimp, scallop, crab, fish and even a couple of errant baby squid in the bowl. There was plenty of heat, lots of flavor, and the meal was incredibly filling – and it wasn’t even the largest bowl available.

Throughout the course of my meal (the summer rolls were also very good), I was approached by a number of employees who asked how the food was, and did I need anything, and could they get me something… the service was exemplary, and there was an air of pride in everything that they were doing. They did their best to explain everything, although at times it was tough to understand what they were saying (certain words like “fruit”), which actually made the experience more enjoyable because I knew that I was a bit out of my element, which is exactly where I wanted to be.

At this point, I am already thinking about taking a hard look at the menu to see how I can finagle some hybrid veggie options that I am sure they will accommodate given the proper direction. I am also excited to bring a couple of friends along for a cocktail when they do get their liquor license. Phở Dollar has a ton of potential, that will hopefully be recognized when the word of their opening gets out. I know that I’ll be back for a mango boba, some summer rolls, and a host of welcoming waves and smiles in the near future.

Phở Dollar is open seven days a week. It is located at 322 West Ferry Street. Phone is 716-768-0049

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About the author  ⁄ queenseyes

Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Catalyst behind the Pierce-Arrow Film Arts Center. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette. Themed New Years mayhem at various locations. Next up: Porchfest... Also offers package tours of the city for groups or individuals. Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

10 comments
keepuhonest
keepuhonest

I'm sure this place was great.  As for waiting for a Vietnamese place to open on the West Side-there has been one on Niagara for years.  And their pho is excellent.  

NormalAveGuy
NormalAveGuy

Overall I thought it was pretty good. Service was great. Everyone was smiling and asking repeatedly if we needed anything or if everything was good. The pho was good. I personally thought it was missing something but I couldnt put my finger on it. The Vietnamese wings were great as well. The pad tai was a little dry an missing egg like some people use but it was still top notch. Personally I think Phosaigon on Niagara falls boulevard(in the outback plaza) has the best tasting Pho broth for my taste but this was def better than pho 99 or saigon Bangkok. Price of the pho was def on par with other places around the area but the Pad Tai was sorta expensive at 12.99 for one with chicken. Overall opinion for me is its closer and is overall comparable or better than most options in the area and will most certainly continue going back.

ck dexter haven
ck dexter haven

Vietnamese food has been a weekly part of my diet since I discovered it in '96 living in San Francisco and then in the Vietnamese neighborhoods around Washington Ave in South Philadelphia.

99 Fast Food is acceptable though the dining room is a bit worn. I started going to Niagara Seafood this summer and find it to be pretty good. The pho broth is very good and is consistent. I don't understand why they make you order at the counter, but they are friendly enough and they have been improving the decor. Their aquariums are quite an attraction.

I went to Pho Dollar yesterday. New paint and furnishings in an older building looks nice, They make a point of being very attentive. They mention the menu is temporary, but is quite broad. I like that they offer loose leaf tea. Pricing is a little more than other places, but still very reasonable. Buffalo's Pho joints are all more expensive than Phila or SF, probably because of lack of competition. 

I found my pho to be perfectly fine. A bit less intense with the star anise then usual, however it is typical for anyone's pho broth to vary from visit to visit. 

So far, Niagara Seafood has my favorite pho, but I would still go back to Dollar for the pho and look forward to trying their bun, broken rice dishes and apps, which are more extensive than the other two places I mentioned. Fine addition to the city.

laldm109
laldm109

I'm kind of a pho snob. I've been sad that Pho 99 changed owners a few months ago and isn't nearly as good as it used to be. Niagara Seafood is generally underwhelming and overpriced. So - I haven't been able to satisfy my pho addiction in Buffalo in a while. SO exciting that I have a new option to try that's close to where I live. Hopefully it is awesome and will be my new go-to place.

bflonative57
bflonative57

You can tell they are inexperienced by not having vegetarian options.  Most Vietnamese restaurants worth their salt, will offer a veggie option with tofu instead of meat and lots of veggies in pho, most notably bright fresh broccoli and cabbage.  Spice up the soup with siracha and hoisin sauce and it's wonderful.  Hopefully they will learn and add some options to the menu.  I live in California and Asian food is on every corner.  The competition for good pho is fierce so this place has a long way to go, but it's a start.

grad94
grad94

grant street = food heaven!

TanyaMarie1
TanyaMarie1

Maybe they will read your review and add at least one vegetarian item to the menu.  Certainly you represent a LOT of vegetarians & vegans in Buffalo!

Fu64
Fu64

@bflonative57  Lolz I like how in one fell swoop you not only criticize, rate and offer sage wisdom against the competition to a restaurant you've never even been to.  It appears you know the ancient south pacific secret of "Siracha" not to be mistaken with the bastardized American "Sriracha" so surely they will heed your warning.  Take it easy on the armchair criticism to a new local business.  Can't wait to check the place out, genuinely brilliant move opening up in that location.

16thStreet
16thStreet

As good if not better than a 27 large at Pho 99! Great news as it's just around the block from me. Mmm

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