The stretch of Washington Boulevard (Route 301) running north from Main Street to 17th Street is a real mélange of commerce. Mostly comprised of small strip mall shopping centers, gas stations, banks, pawn shops, fast food and convenience stores, it would be easy to overlook some of the small ethnic “mom and pop” restaurants sprinkled about the area. This would be an unfortunate happenstance for those who crave culinary exploration.
Exploring undiscovered culinary experiences are not for everyone. Oft times these “off the radar” spots remain undiscovered for a reason, be it food quality, locale, décor, service or various other reasons. Nonetheless, every once in a while we come across a place that's worth highlighting; JR Pho is one such place.
Located at 1303 North Washington Boulevard, in the former Amy’s Pho location, JR Pho does have some idiosyncrasies. Although the name suggests Vietnamese cuisine, which it does offer, the predominant cuisine is Thai. JR Pho does not offer beer or wine nor does it allow you to “BYOB.”
The menu is extensive, offering a range of appetizers, pho, noodle dishes, curries and soft drinks. As previously mentioned, both Vietnamese and Thai dishes are offered, but Thai seems to be their specialty. For our meals we chose the following:
- Fresh Summer Roll (Goi cuon): Shredded lettuce, shrimp, roast pork, sweet basil and noodles rolled in fresh rice paper served with peanut sauce. $3.95 A very fresh, simply flavored roll, nicely presented; one of our “faves.”
- Crispy Spring Roll (Chagio): Deep fried rolls filled with ground chicken and vegetables. Served with sweet and sour sauce. $3.95 Four small rolls, simply plated with a delicate sweet and sour sauce.
- Banh Mi Thit Ga: Grilled chicken, cucumber, cilantro, carrot and jalapeno in baguette. $6.00 Very fresh and flavorful, a simple presentation.
- Pho Tai Hoac Chin Nam: Sliced rare or well-done beef, brisket and rice noodle soup. $8.50 Good-sized serving, beef broth was tasty, the meat was a tad fatty; leftovers for lunch the next day were just as good.
- Panang, Thai Curry, Chicken: Thick red curry with bell peppers, carrots, zucchini and basil. $13.95 A simple presentation, nice curry flavor, spicy but not too hot, tasted great over rice.
- Phad Thai Chicken: Stir fry rice noodles with sweet tamarind sauce, egg and bean sprouts topped with ground peanuts. $13.95 Sweet and delicious, tender noodles, subtle peanut taste with hints of basil.
- Vegetable Delight: Seasonal fresh vegetables lightly stir-fried in brown garlic sauce. $12.95 A very nice medley of fresh and colorful veggies in mild sauce, delicious.
All of the food was served quickly, made to order and steaming hot. As mentioned earlier, JR Pho does not serve beer or wine, but does offer a wide selection of soft drinks and Thai specialty drinks. The service was very fast and efficient. Although the décor is very simple and somewhat minimalist, we found the dining area, kitche, and bathrooms to be very clean and well-maintained. We did notice an active take-out business while we were dining.
If culinary exploration is one of your “things” and you are a flexible diner, then JR Pho just might be a place you want to try.
1303 N. Washington Blvd
Sarasota, Florida 34236