http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pho-Lily/178121252237558

http://www.yelp.com/biz/pho-lily-chicago

At the time of this review Pho Lily has four stars on Yelp, but I devoutly believe they deserve five. I think that Pho Lily is a poor victim of the Subway Proximity Syndrome, whereby people searching out good Vietnamese food hop on the Red Line, get off at Argyle, and walk into the first decent pho joint they see — the far inferior Tank Noodle, which as of now has about seven times as many reviews as Pho Lily on Yelp. Tank Noodle is … adequate … but if people would walk two more minutes up Broadway they would discover something fantastic.

The decor is nicer, the prices for the same dishes are 1-2 dollars lower. The pho broth is tastier and the meats are too. Plus there was so much more meat to go around. At Tank Noodle I had to hoard my meats to make them last through the bowl of pho, at Pho Lily I actually couldn’t finish all the (freaking delicious char broiled) pork that came with my vermicelli noodles. And that nuoc cham sauce that goes over the vermicelli was the best I’ve ever had. I was impressed with the quality of the tendon at Tank Noodle, but Pho Lily’s was just as good.

The best part of the meal was something I ordered by mistake. We wanted to try their Bahn Mi, so I ordered something that was in the Bahn Mi section of the menu … that turned out not to be Bahn Mi, but was even better, because apparently that is possible. It was Banh Mi Bo Kho: vietnamese beef stew with bread. I’ve often complained that the french rolls Vietnamese restaurants typically use for Bahn Mi cut my mouth up even as I gobble them up, but this roll of bread suffered from a serious case of perfection.

Seriously, Schmoops and I have spent time fantasizing about the perfect roll of french bread before and this was it. A paper thin layer of crispy crackly crust enveloping uniformly fluffy white softness, that holds its own in taste and texture even when dipped into hot flavorful liquids. It was even served warm, which is a courtesy some much pricier restaurants fail to afford their guests. I dipped that bread into that stew, redolent of beef with the sweetness and tanginess of tomato and god knows what magical Vietnamese spices, and that was the last thing I remember before I discovered I had licked the bowl clean. Don’t even get me started on those delicious juicy meatballs in the stew.

And the whole meal cost less than $20.

Verdict: Heaven.