PROFILE: Philly Luncher “Hayley”

As is customary at Philly Lunch, every Tuesday we turn over the site to a different lunch’er for his or her recommendations for the best lunch in Philadelphia. This week it’s Hayley who is pho really serious about noodles.

Name: Hayley

Age: 28

Occupation: Attorney/Founder of Pho Real Asian Food Club & twitter: @PhoRealClub

Where in Philly do you Work?: Market East/Chinatown.

Favorite Kind of Food: Tough question – I have so many! I love Asian food, especially Vietnamese, Korean and Thai. My last meal on earth would be a big bowl of pho with extra Sriracha sauce. I even started an Asian food club so that I could take group trips to restaurants and try more dishes. My other favorite would have to be Italian; I’ve never met a plate of seafood pasta that I didn’t like. A toasted pumpernickel bagel with lox, cream cheese, and cucumbers is pretty high up on the list, as are pickles, hummus and fresh fruit from the farmers market. Last but certainly not least is grilled cheese, the ultimate comfort food (especially my dad’s version on an inside out bagel!)

Least Favorite Kind of Food: Olives, all kinds. Yuck.

Favorite Place(s) to Eat Lunch in Philly: work right next to the Reading Terminal Market and Chinatown, so I have a bunch of options for quick, inexpensive lunches.

I frequent Pho Cali (1000 Arch Street) the most often. They have awesome summer rolls, and will make you tofu pho when you’re in the mood for a lighter meal.

I also really like the eggplant in garlic sauce at Szechuan Tasty House (902 Arch Street). Service is fast here, and they’ll substitute brown rice for white without an extra charge or a hassle.

The beef noodle soup at Nanzhou Hand Drawn Noodle House (927 Race Street) is like pho’s rustic cousin, and the noodles are amazing!

For group lunches, Rangoon (112 N. 9th Street) is a great option because they have large tables and a huge menu. My favorites are the jungle tofu (green curry) and the spicy rice sticks.

As for the Reading Terminal Market my top three stops are Sang Kee, for soup with dumplings and bok choy (ask for #8), Little Thai Market for pad thai (don’t be intimidated by the line – it’s long, but it moves fast) and Beck’s Cajun Café for their daily soups (especially pumpkin bisque in the fall). For dessert, I’ll usually swing by the Fair Food Farmstand for some produce, but sometimes I get sucked in by the vanilla cupcake display at Termini Brothers Bakery.

Also, I have to mention Seo Ra Bol (5734 N. Old 2nd St), because I think they make the best Korean food in Philadelphia. During the summer of 2007, I worked for a law firm in North Philly, and I would go there almost every day for their bulgogi and sushi bento boxes. And for anyone who works in Olde City, try the beef and scallions lunch special at Han Dynasty (108 Chestnut Street) – you won’t be disappointed.

“Go-To” Lunch Place You and Your Coworkers Eat at Too Often? Well, we don’t actually go here, but we order take-out from Q.T. Vietnamese Sandwich (48 N. 10th Street) on a regular basis because we love their bahn mis (especially #9 – lemongrass tofu).

If you could work anywhere (just because of the lunch) where would it be and why? Hanoi (see above) and Paris, because they still savor the lunch hour…and I hear they’ve got some pretty good bread and cheese over there.

Is there anything you’d like to ask the Philly Lunch readers? Why aren’t there more authentic Thai restaurants in Center City?

If I had a quarter for every time I thought that, I would have quite a few quarters!

If you would like to be next week’s Profiled Philly Lunch’er (or know somebody you’d like to nominate), email me at



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  • I like your style…. food rec’s sound really good!

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    Seo Ra Bol!!! Awesome place.
    I’m confused… out of everything you listed, how can you like Pho Cali?? did you try only the tofu pho or the regular one?

    I’ve been the Pho cali, I thought the portion were small and it didn’t taste that good… And it’s really hard to make bad pho…

    some other friends when, and they thought it wasn’t that good of a place…

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    I like Pho Cali because it’s close to my office, consistently yummy, and the prices can’t be beat. Also, the sides (sprouts, limes, jalapenos, basil leaves) are always fresh.

    Pho 75 is another great option in the area.

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    I’d give my right arm for a lunch date with that girl.

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