pho via @benjhilmer

photo courtesy via @benjhilmer

Winter's end is just around the corner, but there are still a few weeks left that will just plain be better with a big bowl of soup. No other soup I can think of has the soul-warming abilities of pho, the complex Vietnamese soup that's become a Columbus staple.

pho greens

Pho (pronounced more like "fuh") is a beef-based soup, generally spiced with star anise, cinnamon and pepper, and heaped with rice noodles. You can add fresh toppings, like Thai basil, cilantro, bean sprouts and lime. Often, some form of beef, whether it's thin strips of rare sirloin, meatballs or even tendon are added. It comes in an enormous bowl that you think is way too big, until you finish the last drop.

Many local pho lovers get their first taste at the North Market's Lan Viet. Lan Viet offers beef as well as non-traditional chicken pho - both hit the spot. Part of the fun is testing your balance and the kindness of strangers trying to get your tray and bowl upstairs to the North Market's seating areas.

Buckeye Pho, on Bethel Road just west of Route 315, is, as it's name declares, devoted to pho. You can get other Vietnamese dishes, but trust me - you don't want to miss their pho. All versions feature beef, but this soup is much more customizable - you can choose steak (well done or rare) meatballs or even tripe. The broth is the standout - delicate and powerful at the same time. The ambiance is nice, as well, and the service is friendly, attentive and willing to help those who are new to Vietnamese food. There's even a sea food soup that's full of high-quality ingredients and great subtle spices for those who don't eat meat.seafood soup

Other great places to find pho is Columbus include Indochine Cafe on the east side, Merlion Noodle and Rice in Clintonville (they offer one signature pho, with most menu items being Malaysian or Singaporean) and Mi Li Cafe in the Columbus Square Shopping Center (though their bahn mi sandwiches are the real draw here.)

What's your favorite soup in Columbus?