When we started to build our Taste the Streetcar Tour, we went searching for locally owned and operated restaurants along the line. We were looking for the "mom-and-pop" locations where we could find the owners with their sleeves rolled up and maybe even find them interacting with the customers in between flipping burgers. It was more difficult than we expected. In Downtown Cincinnati, there is no shortage of award-winning food as we have many, many excellent restaurants. But most of the restaurants in the Central Business District seem to be part of a larger corporate group or a multi-city chain. After lots of streetcar rides, steps, and tastes, we did discover one of our favorites-- Le's Pho.
Le's Pho is owned by Hai Bui and Le Ha and features Vietnamese food in a small space at 3 E. Court Street. The whole family seems to be bustling around the tiny kitchen including daughter Huyen who greets customers with a smile as she assembles orders nonstop. The menu, written on a chalkboard above the counter where you place your order, features several kinds of banh mi sandwiches, pho, and a few other Vietnamese specialties, all made fresh daily. When we first tried the banh mi, we knew we were onto something special at Le's Pho. Then we started to get to know the people behind the restaurant, and we knew we had found the perfect stop for our food tour.
About a block from the Central Parkway streetcar stop and near the Hamilton County Courthouse, Le's Pho is a great location for the lunchtime crowd. Seating is limited, but the piping hot bowls of pho you see as you line up to order remind you that the food is worth the wait. Open Monday through Friday, 11-4, and Saturday, 11-3, Le's Pho knows what they do best. The simple menu with dine-in or carryout options, reasonable prices, and friendly service make this one of our favorite hidden gems.