There are people in the world—sad, confused folks—who believe that a half-assed batch of chicken noodle soup is the apotheosis of comfort food. Indeed, certain members of my own clan to this day still inexplicably believe that a flavorless ocean of canned broth studded with baby-carrot buoys and a tangle of overcooked noodles constitutes a cure for malaises both gustatory and immunological, when, in reality, said bowlful simply exacerbates the problems by forcing the unsuspecting slurper into a deep, irremediable emotional funk not unlike the sadness brought on by repeated viewings of Beaches.
That’s the opposite of what’s going on right now at Stock, the handsome, clean-lined Vietnamese cafe in Fishtown. Beef pho tastes as deep as some sort of soupy Mariana Trench, the liquid exquisitely, exuberantly rich in character. Mushroom pho is built on a stunning umami-rich broth. Both of them, with a generous scattering of herbs and their perfectly cooked rice noodles, are large enough to share but good enough that you won’t want to. On weekends, you can add very good banh mi to the festivities until they run out.
The menu here is straightforward and beautifully executed—although a little less acid in the pea-leaves salad would have allowed the black garlic more room to breathe—and service is appropriately friendly and laid-back. Whether you’re from Fishtown or not, Stock is more than worth a visit or three. I have a list of family members who I’ll be pestering to check it out. It’s a purely selfish move: Experiencing at Stock the heights that soup can achieve firsthand, I’m hoping, will make for infinitely better eating at subsequent family gatherings. I don’t expect their soups to be this good, but a guy can dream.
308 E Girard Ave. stockphilly.com
Hours: Mon., Thurs., Fri., 5:30-10:30pm; Sat.-Sun., noon-8pm.
Price range: $4-$9.
PW's Taste of Philly 2014