PEORIA — If you're looking for food with an international flavor, no place in Peoria has more to offer than the Main Street/Campustown area just off the Bradley University campus.
The latest addition to an eclectic mix of restaurants serving Asian, Mexican and Lebanese selections is Pho on Main II, a site that offers Vietnamese and other Asian dishes in the space once occupied by Happy Fish Sushi in the Campustown Shopping Center.
Dining Vietnamese-style has been a hallmark of the area thanks to the success of the Thanh Linh operation that's been operating for more than 20 years across the street from Pho.
Apparently you can't have too much pho (pronounced fa), the captivating broth bowl that encourages a diner to customize. Pho on Main offers a wide number of pho selections. It starts this way: beef broth with herbs and spices come served in a bowl of rice noodles topped with yellow onions, green onions and meats. Feel free to add as much basil, bean sprouts, limes and jalapenos you need to taste.
Pho comes in three sizes at the Campustown location: small ($8.50), medium ($10.50) and large ($12.50). We dropped by for lunch recently to see how pho our dining dollar could go here.
First of all, if you were a Happy Fish customer, you'll feel right at home. The interior hasn't changed much. Booths line one wall while small tables line up on the other side of the room. A long narrow table stretches down the middle of the place. There's music and a bright decor.
We chose wontons ($5) for starters. The fried items were crunchy enough but didn't register much on the surprise scale so it was on to the pho.
The decision was made to split a small bowl of chicken pho. After all, it's in their name and all. I enjoy being able to add all the various items into the mix previously mentioned but admit I haven't found the perfect combination as yet. Nevertheless, what we mixed up was bright and tasty.
We had the full attention of our friendly server in placing our main luncheon orders. I went with vermicelli with grilled chicken ($11) while my companion opted for the Korean BBQ short rib rice plate ($14).
Naturally, we sampled both dishes. First, I enjoyed my vermicelli dish, although the chicken strips, while tasty, might have been pork. It was hard to tell. As for the ribs, they were pretty tough. Having enjoyed Korean BBQ before, I found the Pho version a little lacking.
But I'm sure there are plenty of menu choices I need to try at Pho on Main. Some of the things that jumped off the menu at me include seafood fried rice ($13) that includes shrimp, squid, crabstick and crawfish, pork chop rice plate with fried egg ($12) and, for American food fanciers, fried shrimp basket ($10), served with French fries and homemade "yum-yum" sauce.
Anyway, that's all pho now.
Steve Tarter covers city and county government for the Journal Star. He can be reached at 686-3260 or email@example.com. Follow him at Twitter@SteveTarter and facebook.com/tartersource.