Pho, bubble tea at Curbside


In the parking lot of the Shell gas station, across the street from the Seattle Pacific Art Center, sits a trailer bearing the word “Curbside,” with a spork for the “i.”  This Technicolor trailer is the closest off-campus dining establishment to SPU.

The menu is consistent with most Vietnamese Pho shops in the area, offering soups, noodles, sandwiches, appetizers and drinks.  For SPU students, accessibility is the main attraction, given the proximity to campus.  However, the takeout format detracts somewhat from the convenience factor.

The price range also makes Curbside an appealing destination for college students, offering dishes made from fresh, quality ingredients at a slightly lower rate than other local Vietnamese places.

Curbside does not have any seating, requiring the diner to take food elsewhere to eat.

The Pho soup, which costs around $7 depending on the meat, comes in multiple containers, so it requires a bit of assembly.  Strips of fresh, raw meat, dry noodles, and chopped onions and parsley come in one container, the hot broth in another, and bean sprouts, basil leaves, and jalapeño and lemon slices come in a separate bag, along with Sriracha and Hoisin sauce.

Although this packaging adds some inconvenience, it preserves the signature freshness of the dish, in addition to allowing for maximum customizability.  The beef broth is mildly salty with a savory tartness.  The noodles and meat cook in roughly a minute after pouring the hot broth over them — a perfect amount of time to add the other ingredients and allow for some cooling.

The only real letdown is the spring rolls, which consist primarily of rice noodles and entire leaves of lettuce. A paltry addition of thin slices of shrimp and strips of spongy tofu line the outer layer.  When combined with the mass of noodles and lettuce, however, they add essentially no flavor.  On the whole, the rolls are bland, although they feature a satisfying texture.

The thin, elastic roll contrasts with the chewy noodles and the crunch of the fresh lettuce.  The rolls come with a peanut sauce, which is simultaneously sickly sweet and overwhelmingly salty.  On the positive side, the rolls are filling, especially for a $3 appetizer.

The bubble tea is a standout. The texture is soft and smooth, noticeably creamier than many local vendors’. Curbside’s bubble tea is more in the realm of milkshakes than  beverages.  Natural fruit flavors prevail, with warm vanilla undertones.  The sweetness is well balanced with tartness, enhancing rather than obscuring the gentle bitterness of the tea.  The tapioca peals have an even, gummy texture, which provide a pleasing variety to the texture of the drink.  All flavors cost $3. Try the mango bubble tea, which has a refreshing combination of flavors and a rich, milky aftertaste.

Curbside may never be a favorite destination for dates or lingering homework sessions, but it does offer a healthy, convenient lunch option for students looking to venture just a few paces off campus.

Curbside is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Friday.  The service is quick and friendly.  During the weekday lunch rush, expect a wait of around 10 minutes.




This article was posted in the section Features.

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