Full disclosure: this was not my original destination, nor was this my original article idea. Looking to write about good pho, I was actually headed to Chapel Hill’s Lime & Basil, the one place I’ve found with acceptable pho. I took my photographer all the way over there on Saturday at 3pm and, to our dismay, Lime & Basil was closed until 5pm. I was disheartened but determined to finish my piece about pho which would not be complete without a recommendation and some pho porn. I googled “pho chapel hill,” and see Mei Asian – okay sounds good, oh just kidding, it’s also closed. Then I saw a Latin-Asian fusion place called Lucha Tigre – dubious but starving and encouraged by the rave Yelp reviews, we headed over.
First, a little crash course on pho. To set the record straight, it’s pronounced “fuh” not “foe.” This not-so-classic comfort food features a steamy broth of simmered meat, charred onions and star anise, with hearty white rice noodles, a protein (typically beef, but sometimes seafood for pescatarians like me) and fresh garnishes (Thai basil, jalapeño, bean sprouts and lime). Apparently, it’s actually a breakfast dish (read: a go-to hangover cure – salty, hydrating, satisfying) in its home country, Vietnam.
Seated at Lucha Tigre, we quickly scanned the menu, which featured some extremely fusion items like the chicken bulgogi empanada, and ordered some dumplings and pho. They came pretty quickly and first thing I notice: the pho and herbs garnishes are giving off that drool-inducing smell that peaks my pho radar. We scarfed down the dumplings, which were fine but overshadowed by the star of the show: the pho that hit the spot just right. The broth was rich without being heavy, the noodles were tender without being mushy, the beef flank was perfectly thin without being chewy, and the bean sprouts, basil, jalapeno and lime were fresh – pho-king pho-nomenal (sorry couldn’t resist).
I’ve definitely added this place to my short list, so much so that I had to tell y’all about it. I’ll be making it back over there to try some of the more adventurous menu items (join me!) but for now, I can inform you that if you’re craving pho at a time when Lime & Basil (which still remains the best specialty pho place) is closed, don’t be scared by the odd fusion genre and give Lucha Tigre a try.
Location: 746 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Hours of Operation: 11:30am-2:30pm and 5pm-12am Monday-Friday, 12pm-12am Saturday and Sunday