By: George Alberts |Â Photo: Courtney Pakalolo
As San Diegans, we enjoy a diverse way of life through entertainment, sites, art, and great opportunities for dining, the unique characteristics that make up our fine city. As a local, born and raised, I still find myself discovering new and old, delicious and incredible meals. What Iâ€™ve learned over the years is that every appetite and craving can be a great opportunity for a new experience. Last month, I stumbled upon an unexpected and memorable food find tucked away in the coastal community of Ocean Beach. Known for its authentic Vietnamese cuisine, the OB Noodle House has exceptional Pho dishes with some serious and refreshing flavor that will leave you wanting more. After meeting the owner, sampling their menu, and taking advantage of their VERY extensive bar, I learned that other Vietnamese-style restaurants just wonâ€™t cut it anymore.
Since 2008, the OB Noodle House has been enjoying a pretty successful ride because of its high quality food, fun atmosphere, and hungry people like me, craving a refreshing experience. Steve Yeng, the genius behind this incredibly unique restaurant, who also grew up in OB, originally set out to create the perfect hangout spot for him and his buddies, but found himself with something more and the challenge to create something better.Â The current location of the Noodle House had already endured the unfortunate demise of a previous Vietnamese eatery, but Steve was determined to put it together and make it work. Most entrepreneurs and business owners typically deal with some of the same obstacles and challenges that arise when starting up a business, but not Steve.Â â€œWe didnâ€™t really have any business or restaurant experienceâ€¦we didnâ€™t really have a plan either. I was getting out of college and didnâ€™t know what I wanted to do, however, my friends and I really wanted to put something together where we could chill and hang out, then one thing led to another and everything just kind of fell into placeâ€¦we got lucky,â€ he said. Most people would have called him crazy for starting up another Pho restaurant after seeing the first one go up in smoke, but for Steve, his inspiration had a lot to do with his family and what he grew up eating because thatâ€™s what he knew. â€œI had a pretty rough childhood and came to this country with nothing, and didnâ€™t even speak English, but now Iâ€™m living the American dream. And unfortunately, I canâ€™t really describe to you how this happened, it just didâ€¦we got lucky. However, the biggest challenge I ran into was putting the menu together, but after doing a little research, using my best judgment, and learning how to make the food, everything pretty much worked out in our favor again.â€ Thereâ€™s no shortage of good places to eat in OB, but the Noodle House sets the bar as a fresh and unique restaurant experience. I really admired Steveâ€™s carefree, positive attitude and fun-loving spirit; itâ€™s his state of mind that drives this prosperous and dynamic business.
Since theyâ€™ve opened their doors, theyâ€™ve been packed! OB residents love their food, and San Diegans pour in from all over to try some of the best Pho in town. This place is truly one of kind and I say that with confidence. Iâ€™ve had plenty of bad experiences when it comes to Pho and this wasnâ€™t one of them. I absolutely loved the simple, clean layout and appreciated its original and creative environment. The eclectic design and sports bar space presented me with a warm, fun and friendly atmosphere that made me feel right at home. The servers were polite with a certain charisma that really got me in the mood for a good time. It was also good to know that Steve takes great pride in his brain child by working long hours alongside his employees/friends that have been with him since the beginning, which is a rarity in the restaurant business, and it just goes to show that everyone enjoys what they do. Itâ€™s hard to find a place with a good mix of alcohol, food, and great service, but the Noodle House is doing a great job at filling that void. It attracts crowds both young and old with an atmosphere that shifts like night and day as the evening approaches.Â With incredible drinks, an extensive bar, and great specials, the Noodle House lures a thirsty, younger, college crowd, which makes plenty of sense for the surrounding locale. Whether youâ€™re with family or friends, it is the perfect place for any gathering.
While I waited for my appetizer and the OB Special, Steve introduced me to their Honey Melon Sake that took me back for a moment with its smooth and deliciously sweet taste, which made it hard to put down.Â I also helped myself to an amazing Belgium beer that was unlike anything Iâ€™ve ever tasted. Lindemans â€“ Pomme had a smooth, light body with an outstanding fresh apple flavor that was GOOOOOOD! Somewhat tart, this particular beer didnâ€™t taste like a beer at all, but rather an early desert. Since the tasty sake and beer didnâ€™t stain my palate, it was easy to enjoy the Tiger Shrimp appetizer that was served up with a very unique, homemade sweet and sour sauce that was a great compliment to the already delicious shrimp.Â And when things couldnâ€™t get any better, my Pho had finally arrived! The OB Special consisted of extra large rare steak, well-done steak, brisket, flank and tripeâ€¦the communion was meant to be; everything was perfect! Nothing warms my heart more than a huge bowl of noodle soup. When it comes to Pho, the focal point for me has always been the broth. Other restaurants have a bad habit of using excessive amounts of MSG, which has a tendency to manipulate the flavor of any food, especially Pho, by always leaving a dry aftertaste in your mouth. Itâ€™s hard to find places like this that use very little (if any) MSG and the truth is in the broth. It was clean and refreshing all the way through; the rice noodles were perfect, the meat was tender, and the overall taste was satisfying! I can go on, but the OB Noodle House is one of those places you have to experience for yourself, and if you donâ€™t, then youâ€™re only wasting your time with what YOU think is good Pho.
Any dubious individual would find comfort in the high quality, home-style Pho and other dishes this place puts out; they certainly get down in the kitchen! The OB Noodle House is a perfect accolade to the Ocean Beach scene with its youthful energy and great, friendly service. But if you absolutely love Pho, canâ€™t get enough, and would like to pledge your love, theyâ€™ve got the â€œPho 20â€. This beast will decimate you with 2lbs. of noodles, 1.5 lbs. of meat, and 1 pint of Stone beer, but on a positive note, youâ€™ll be recognized and forever remembered as a â€œPhoKing Championâ€ on their Wall of Fame.Â You see, itâ€™s something as simple as this that sums up and defines what this business is all about: fun, good times, and heartwarming food.Â And believe me, itâ€™s ALWAYS a good time for a bowl!
OB Noodle House
2218 Cable Street
San Diego, CA 92107