Dining on a Shoestring: Pho 14

A glance around the small dining room of Pho 14 (1436 Park Rd., NW; 202-986-2326) confirms that this tiny Vietnamese cafe has evolved into a dependable source of good, simple cooking. The room is often filled with all the colors of the very diverse Columbia Heights neighborhood. Apparently, every culture can appreciate a convenient, reasonably priced pho house with a decent dose of authenticity.

Pho 14 won’t make the Vietnamese soup’s many devotees forget noodle powerhouse Pho 75 in Arlington, but it turns out rich, reliable bowls of beef-broth soup—$7.95 for a regular bowl, $8.95 for a large—with hints of anise and a variety of meat options. A plate piled with bean sprouts, stems of basil, lime wedges, and slices of jalapeño arrive with the aromatic broth filled with noodles and topped with beef.

Want something other than pho? Try the succulent grilled meats, such as the skewered-shrimp appetizer ($5.95) or the grilled pork that tops a bowl of vermicelli noodles ($8.95), called bun. Chopped peanuts and spirals of cucumber add crunch to the bun, and a splash of the sweet chili sauce on the side gives it punch. Sliced beef short ribs ($8.95) served with a dome of rice surrounded by prettily arranged vegetables, all topped with scallions and frizzled onions, balances richness and brightness.

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