After a minor Blue Jay Shuttle confusion, my friend and I arrived at Mona’s Super Noodle just in time for our 7:30 p.m. reservation. It was a Thursday night and every table was taken, save for ours — a good sign. The hostess graciously welcomed us, sat us at the open high-top table and left us to ponder over the menu.
Mona’s Super Noodle is a family-owned restaurant located on the corner of 36th Street and The Avenue in Hampden. It’s hard to miss: look out for the yellow sign displaying a giant bowl of noodles atop a green-painted storefront. It specializes in Southeast Asian cuisine, and if you couldn’t guess from its name, offers a number of noodle dishes. Here, you’ll find Thai drunken noodles and Vietnamese pho. If you’re not a fan of noodles, the menu also includes Thai curries, fried rice, soups and salads.
The menu is largely customizable, making it suitable for people with varying dietary preferences. For most of the entrees, you can select your preferred protein: chicken, tofu, veggie, beef, shrimp or seafood (and you can double-up and mix and match!). While the pho dishes come with their designated protein, there are meat, seafood, and vegetable variations available, and the servers are happy to make accommodations when possible.
After studying our options, my friend and I felt ready to order. Since noodles are Mona’s claim to fame, both of us were itching to try the pho. She opted for #3 Pho, which contains brisket and well-done flank steak immersed in a flavorful beef broth. I went for the Pho Vegetables, the vegan course that comes with a medley of vegetables in a warm vegetable broth.
The waitress collected our menus and in just 10 minutes returned with a plate towering with bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, fresh Thai basil leaves and a single lime wedge — the standard accompaniment to pho. The next time she emerged from the kitchen she carried two massive white bowls of the traditional Vietnamese rice noodle soup. The aromatic steam overwhelmed my senses as soon as she placed the dish before me, making my mouth water.
This was not my first time eating pho, so I knew better than to simply dive in. I generously squeezed lime juice into the broth, added bean sprouts and scattered the picked-apart Thai basil leaves before giving the bowl a hefty stir to bring all the flavors together. I sampled before drizzling sriracha over the noodles and mixing a second time — I like my pho spicy, but I always recommend tasting before upping the heat!
My friend and I dove head-first into our deep bowls of pho, and for a couple of minutes, we didn’t exchange a word — another good sign, I believe. After some bites, we ceased our slurping long enough to praise our respective meals. She was happy with the preparation of the meat in her pho; I was glad to enjoy a vegetable broth base bursting with flavor (not an easy feat) and appreciated the well-balanced ratio of veggies to noodles.
The service at Mona’s Super Noodle was particularly great. Our waitress checked on us consistently throughout dinner and was attentive to our requests and questions. By the time we arrived at the bottom of our deep vessels of soup, the restaurant had mostly emptied out, but we did not feel rushed by the staff to finish and leave. We lingered for a bit in that pleasant atmosphere, digesting the considerable meal we had just devoured before paying the bill and heading out. The menu prices are more than reasonable, especially given the size of the portions. The average entree will cost you between $13 and $17, depending on the protein (tofu and chicken are less expensive, while shrimp and steak cost more).
Overall, I highly recommend a trip to Mona’s Super Noodle in Hampden. Within shuttle distance and even walkable on a nice day, the restaurant is easy to get to, and the ambience is delightful. The customizable, clearly-labeled menu makes it appropriate for people with different dietary restrictions (including gluten free!), and the friendly, knowledgeable servers are willing to help in that regard too. The food itself is delicious, and thanks to the generous helpings, you will leave with a full belly without breaking the bank.
That said, Mona’s isn’t a hidden gem — it has achieved a stellar reputation and a strong following, so I advise that you call ahead or make a reservation, especially for dine-in on the weekend. But if you plan accordingly, you’ll find yourself wowed by the service and amazing food provided by this family-owned spot.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The News-Letter.