An Loi isn't the last word on Vietnamese food.
Last month, we started a shopping trip by stopping at Pho 89 in Laurel. Alex from the Technology & MSG blog had commented about Pho 89 -- and posted about it previously. I'm so aware that longtime Columbia folks bemoan the fact that An Loi's original owners sold the place, so I'm willing to try somewhere new.
Pho 89 gave us the warm cozy lunch that we needed. This is a super-casual place like An Loi. I ordered a large bowl of pho. Mrs. HowChow ordered noodles with grilled chicken and a Vietnamese coffee. They're both good, and I love the self-help meal where I add Thai basil, hot sauce, and bean sprouts to tailor the soup to my mood of the moment. But I don't know that I'd drive all the way from Howard County -- or drive past An Loi. Mrs. HowChow loves An Loi's lemongrass chicken, and she wasn't sold on Pho 89.
But I'm still going back to Laurel for pho. Casting about on Yelp, I realized that there are some very positive reviews of Pho Saigon 54 on U.S. 1 at Contee Road. I'm no expert on Vietnamese broth, but I have several more cold months to check around.
Any pho experts -- or non-experts -- want to recommend the right places to eat and the right dishes to order? I have seen the Korean page in An Loi's menu, so I get the idea that it isn't completely traditional Viet. If you're looking for local Vietnamese, you should also try Pho Dat Thahn on Snowden River Parkway just up from An Loi. The Chowhounders also bemoan that Pho Dat Thahn's original owners sold too.
3507 Fort Meade Road (Rte 198)
Laurel, MD 20723
NEAR: Pho 89 is on Rte 198 just across the county line into Anne Arundel. From U.S. 1, you pass the Home Depot and the Laurel Dutch Country Farmers Market. Then you'll see Pho 89 at the end of a shopping center on the right. It is across Rte 198 from several car dealers.