IT MAY NOT BE authentic per se, but vegan pho—like the increasingly available and reputable vegan ramen—does exist. Furthermore, when you've a serious hangover, there is nothing better for you outside of a liver cleanse. Sometimes it is the only nourishment that will do at all.
There's something about those final sips of anise-tinged broth at the bottom of a wide bowl, where the tiny bits of herbs and spices (you must use all available fresh jalapeños, Sriracha, and chile sauces to maximize effectiveness)—that's where the real healing happens, and there's nothing else like it. You should be coated in a light sweat, likely with a bit of nose run, and a sense of fullness that will comfortably pass with the rapid metabolizing of liquid, rice noodle, and barely cooked, crisp vegetables. It is absolutely my number-one brunch option for the mornings I'm rough around the edges, but I eat it at least once a week sober as a church mouse, and I've been known to drop everything and drive clear across town when an urge overtakes me.
My go-to pho kitchens, in order of preference:
1) LUC LAC VIETNAMESE KITCHEN
Relatively new on the scene, in my book this is the Portland answer to a certain restaurant in Los Angeles' Silver Lake neighborhood that has been affectionately nicknamed "Hipster Pho." The young staff have been around the pho block once or twice in previous incarnations, but the vast pleasant space, full bar, excellent happy hour featuring a panoply of small plates for a song apiece, and—of course—the fact that they have what's probably the tastiest pho in town, for carnivores and vegans alike, makes this a standby. Perfect for productivity-saving mid-week lunches (against all reason they are closed Sundays and don't open until 4 pm on Saturdays), everyday dinners, and super late-night preventative measures. The dragon mural is pretty cool too.
835 SW 2nd, Mon-Fri 11 am-2:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 4 pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 4 pm-4 am, luclackitchen.com
2) PHO GREEN PAPAYA
Originally founded by the Luc Lac crew, some abandoned this spot when it changed hands, but the recipe for their vegan pho, at least, doesn't appear to have been altered much. Plus, the roomy patio allows one to fully enjoy the act of eating hot, spicy soup on a warm day—an acquired taste, maybe, but a refined one. One hint: It's worth requesting the chile oil that doesn't come standard on your table caddy of condiments in order to adequately crank up the spice volume. They too are closed on Sundays, but open early enough Saturdays to ease the cravings of most weekend brunchers.
402 SE MLK, Mon-Sat 10:30 am-9 pm
3) GOT PHO?
One of the local originators of veggie pho, this place has a slight health-food bent and a charmingly goofball name. The vast dining room is never as full as it should be, but the staff is friendly, the food materializes quickly enough to salve the famished, and the vegetarian pho comes with a little add-on of fried garlic and crushed peanuts that you don't see every day. Plus they are always open when the others are closed. They are my #1 Sunday pho refuge.
3634 NE Sandy, daily 11 am-9 pm, gotphoonline.com
4) PHO GIA
There have been some suspicions voiced that the kitchen doesn't always get the memo when you ask for the vegetarian broth here. I've never detected the error myself, however, and while the veggie pho doesn't quite have the singing zip of crisp veggies that my other favorites boast, they serve up a perfectly satisfying bowl that will scratch the itch and clear the head (and sinuses). Located at a formerly cursed address that saw a steady turnover of mediocre restaurants, Gia appears to be turning it around, attracting a fanbase and heightened reputation in the neighborhood. Plus they have Got Pho? beat by one hour on the daily clock.
1944 NE Sandy, daily 11 am-10 pm