Reviews and Such Restaurants Vietnamese

Sargent Taco Shop – Tam’s Pho

Generally I do reviews of restaurants separately, but today I’m doing a review of both Sargent Taco Shop and Tam’s Pho. While the cuisine is different, and one is trying to replicate a distinctive vibe, they have a couple of things in common that make for a good review.

Tam's Pho water.
A glass of lemon water from Tam’s Pho.

The first is that they are both small establishments. Sargent Taco has one table and a few stools, but advertises itself as a take-out restaurant. Tam’s Pho has a little more seating space, but also does a lot of take-out business. The second is that they are both located on busy main streets. Sargent Taco not surprisingly is on Sargent Avenue, and Tam’s Pho is on Portage Avenue. The third is that they are both on the lower end of the scale as far as price is considered. You can get a good meal, cheaply at either restaurant. The fourth is that while the cuisine is different both serve really good food.

Quick and Easy to Go

My friend David Driedger, who I had visited The Mami Project with, had put a post on Facebook that his favourite Mexican restaurant was reopening. He didn’t give a location, but as I was walking down Sargent one evening, I saw The Sargent Taco shop was open and figured it must be the place.
I was on my way elsewhere, so I decided I would just order the three tacos, for six dollars. I had one each of the Chicken, the Beef, and the Chorizo with potato. They arrived quickly and I wolfed them down right away. I left to continue on my way, but had only gotten about half a block before I realized that the hardest thing about only ordering the three tacos together was not turning back and ordering three more. They were that delicious. I did however, resist.

Sargent Taco Shop tacos.
The three tacos. Chicken, Beef, and Chorizo with potato.

My desire for something quick and easy from Tam’s Pho actually came on my third visit to the restaurant. It was Thursday night, I had been running errands, and wanted to big up something light, quick and relatively substantial before I attended the Thursday Night Lecture at St. Margaret’s. So, when I stopped in I placed an order for six spring rolls.

Tams Pho spring rolls.
Spring rolls from Tams Pho.

I only had to wait a minute or two for my order to be filled. The spring rolls were good and crunchy. The filling had a good mixture of pork and vegetables.  One thing that the picture doesn’t show is that the take out container comes with a hole cut in the top so that if you want to eat while you walk you can do so without worrying about the wind catching the empty portion of the lid. With quick service I was able to take the spring rolls with me and consume them before the lecture began.

Meal Time:

While there isn’t much seating at either place, I was able to find a place to sit each time. When I went to Sargent Taco Shop the second time, I ordered the taco trio meal. It’s $9.00 dollars, and includes Re-fried beans, Mexican Rice, and a canned soft drink. I also ordered an oatmeal and vegetable soup. Yes, you read that correctly, oatmeal. I talked later with one of the people working there, and she explained that oatmeal is often used as a thickener instead of cream. The oatmeal soup is also a really great buy, at $3.99 for a fairly large container.

Sargent Taco Shop oatmeal and vegetable soup.
A delicious oatmeal and vegetable soup.

The owner of Sargent Taco Shop advertises himself as an Antojitos specialist. Antojitos, literally “little cravings” is the term given to Mexican Street food. My knowledge on authentic Mexican street food is nil, having never traveled that far. However, it seems from comments I’ve been following, Sargent Taco Shop offers the real deal. Whatever else, it is delicious.
The meat in the tacos is all moist, tender, and well-seasoned. I also really enjoyed the refried beans. Most of my experience of these has been from a can, and The Sargent Taco Shop was a vast improvement on them. I enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t 100% paste and there were little bits of bean to bit on. The rice was a little wet, but still quite tasty.

When I finished my meal, I grabbed a couple of the chicken quesadillas to take home with me. These were open-faced quesadillas, with large pieces of chicken that was moist and tender. Sargent Taco Shop gives a really good, and reasonably spicy salsa on the side, along with a salsa verde. I have a feeling I will be picking up many tacos along the way in the way in the next few months.

Tam Pho Meals:

Tams Pho beef, vegetables, and noodles
Beef and vegetables on rice noodles from Tams Pho

I recently went back to Tam’s Pho for the first time in a while. I had just been to Scout Coffee and Tea for a latte and a snack, so I wasn’t particularly in the mood for too much food. Having only tried the Vietnamese food, I decided I would give the Chinese food a try. I went with the Beef and Vegetables on Rice Noodles. It was pretty good, but I have to admit that when I go back to Tam’s I’m most likely to stick with the Vietnamese food. It’s a case of the very good being my preference over the merely good. However, if you are with someone whose not a big fan of Vietnamese food, they won’t be disappointed with the Chinese food options.
My first couple of visits to Tam’s Pho were for meals, and I was able to find a place to sit and enjoy my meal inside.

Tams Pho Spring Rolls
Vermicelli with a side of Spring Rolls from Tams Pho.

I ordered the Vermicelli with Spring Rolls. The Spring rolls were good, and the ingredients in the Vermicelli were fresh. However, the vinegar dish that came with it lacked any real acidic quality and so the dish felt a little flat as far as the flavour is concerned.
The second time I went I ordered the Pho. The restaurant has Pho in the name, so I figured I better try some. I was in the mood for a really full meal, so I also added the Vietnamese Ham Banh Mi. The Pho was really good. The broth was rich,  and there was a good selection of meat and vegetables. I found the Bahn Mi to be really pleasing. The ham was moist, and the mixture of vegetables and dressing had a bright, clean quality to them.

As I get to the end of this post, I realize that there is another thing that both of these small restaurants hold in common. The service in both is excellent. The staff are friendly, efficient, and if you are unfamiliar with the food on offer, simply ask. I’m sure you will receive a good explanation and description of what to order. Much like at Beaurivage, the staff at Sargent Taco Shop, and Tam’s Pho, have shown themselves to excellent guides on your dining journey.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.