Why it’s Always Better to Stay Than Go at Pho Five-O

Columns Veg'n Out

November 17, 2013

Story By: Andy Beth Miller | Photos by: Nathalie Walker

Clad in my favorite screen-print tee, proudly announcing to the world my “Vegetarian!” status (in bold font, of course), I shift into park and exit my EPA-approved Prius (complete with an “Animals Are Our Friends” bumper sticker) and make my way toward the entry of Pho Five-O, a local, family-owned Vietnamese eatery.

To say that this little cafe had its work cut out for it would be the understatement of the century, and as I peruse the menu, bypassing anything that says “moo” in lieu of what my dad calls my “Rabbit Food,” I am pleasantly surprised to see dish after dish of “Andy-approved offerings.”

From Vegetarian Egg Roll ($4.95 for two rolls) to Tofu Salad ($7.50), Stir-Fried Mixed Veggies with Tofu ($8.95), and even a veggie version of the restaurant’s signature dish Pho Vegie Tofu in a vegetarian broth ($9.95), Pho Five-0’s meat-free fare is a feast for any hungry herbivore. Just be sure to ask for peanut sauce in substitution of fish sauce, and let the server know you would like vegetarian rather than chicken or beef broth.

“We noticed we were getting many calls requesting vegetarian broth-prepared dishes and wanted to make sure that those customers had choices when they visited,” explains owner Kim Nguyen. “We can prepare using many substitutions — just ask!”

Pho Veggie Tofu with vegetarian broth ($9.95)

Pho Veggie Tofu with vegetarian broth ($9.95)

In April of 2008, when husband and wife team Kim Nguyen and Nhut Thai opened their restaurant in Waimalu Shopping Center, the couple wanted to create a space where patrons could come and enjoy authentic Vietnamese cuisine in a comfortable atmosphere, and at an affordable price. “Our customers are important to us,” says Nguyen. “We are grateful they have been such steady diners over the years and want to continue to cater to what they like in order to show our appreciation.”

I’d say they have accomplished their goal. Priding themselves on serving food prepared with fresh vegetables, herbs and spices grown locally, the dishes are filling yet light, and left me satisfied — without having to loosen that next loop on my (pleather) belt.

And with the opening of the couple’s neighboring venue, HI Sandwich and Drink, a more takeout focused over-the-counter joint right next door, the only difficulty I had with this stop was the same small crisis The Clash had to face circa 1982: “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”

Pho Five-0 Vietnamese Restaurant

98-020 Kamehameha Hwy.
Daily, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Aiea, HI 96701

Hawaii's Best
Hawaii's Best