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Cheap Eats: Turtle Tower

Pho is the comfort food of a thousand faces. At this corner nook on Sixth Street—as at Turtle Tower’s two other San Francisco locations—it adopts its Hanoi guise, a regional style that calls for flat, wide noodles, clear and beefy broth, and just two garnishes (lime and chilies), not the more familiar garden of basil, mung bean sprouts, and mint. The result, boldly flavored and belly-filling, satisfies in the simple ways it should. But the menu features other, more compelling players, including bun thang (a shrimp paste–enhanced soup with chicken, shredded egg, ground pork, and vermicelli), assorted rice plates in the key of meat, and a fried chicken leg, served bare and bronzed, with a side of salty lemon sauce that’s a perfect foil for the crisp skin. The space is small, and midday lines often spill onto the sidewalk. Those who come for the pho might consider switching to a banh mi sandwich, which, when you add an egg, amounts to the best $4.50 meal in town. (J.S.)

501 6TH ST. (BET. BRANNAN AND BRYANT STS.), S.F., 415-904-9888 $ W ★★

Our review policy: To ensure that we get a typical consumer’s experience in a restaurant, our writers dine anonymously; all expenses are paid by the magazine. Reviews are pulled from our listings two years after the review date or any time personnel changes at a restaurant render a review invalid. Our admittedly imperfect star ratings are based on food quality, variety, service, ambience, and value. 

Staff reviewers and contributors to our restaurant guide include John Birdsall, Susan Bryan, Stett Holbrook, Rachel Levin, Jan Newberry, Josh Sens, and Lisa Trottier.

Average price of an entrée:
$ = $10 or less
$$ = $11–17
$$$ = $18–24
$$$$ = $25 or more

D = Dinner only
R = Reservation required/recommended
C = Cash only
V = Valet parking
W = Wheelchair accessible

★★★★ = superlative
★★★ = excellent
★★ = very good
★ = good