A&E

Pho face-off: Le Brothers and Three Sisters serve Vietnamese cuisine within 1.3 miles of each other on Sprague

Pho at Le Brothers in Spokane Valley. (Don Chareunsy / The Spokesman-Review)

Sibling rivalry is commonplace, but how about sibling rivalry in (only) company names and signage? You’ll find the latter in the form of Le Brothers and Three Sisters Restaurant on East Sprague Avenue in Spokane Valley.

Both are Vietnamese restaurants; the two locations are within 1.3 miles of each other; and they share the same business hours. Talk about a Pho Face-Off! But for the record: As this Running Tab column is in jest because of the fun restaurant names, the owners and employees aren’t related – as far as I know. And if they are, well even better!

But what Le (pronounced “Lee”) Brothers and Three (pronounced “three”) Sisters also share in common is a menu of Southeast Asian cuisine with popular noodle, rice and seafood dishes to satisfy mostly savory and salty palates. To be crystal clear: I love pho.

And with temperatures dipping lower and lower right now, it is the perfect time for a hot and nourishing bowl of pho – a Vietnamese soup usually made with beef stock and to which white rice noodles, vegetables (onions, please), herbs (Thai basil, please), spices (Sriracha and sautéed red peppers, please) and beef, chicken or seafood are added.

My 12-year-old niece Anya is a pho aficionado in that she enjoys the hot noodle dish – “I love pho, Uncle Don,” she says – and has been eating it for years. She has ordered pho while visiting me in my previous homes of San Diego and Las Vegas and in Vietnamese restaurants here in Spokane.

Anya and I visited Le Brothers and Three Sisters in Spokane Valley (there also is a Three Sisters Food to Go at 4003 E. Sprague Ave.), with her mom/my sister Michelle and her brother/my nephew Shawn, 8, along for the restaurant research.

From her experienced point-of-view, here is Anya’s review:

Le Brothers, where she finished her entire bowl of chicken pho – noodles and broth: “I really liked it. The place was very cute because it was tiny. It was a nice environment.” And Three Sisters: “The bowl was bigger, but it tasted the same. The service wasn’t as good.”

Anya’s comments are right on target. My niece is so smart, even though she’s choosing the healthier option of chicken broth over the more delicious choice of beef broth. While you can’t go wrong with either Le Brothers or Three Sisters for pho, our one-time-but-not-last-time experience was vastly different at each location.

Le Brothers is truly a mom-and-pop restaurant, which I love and will always support. The location is indeed small, and nobody will be wowed by the no-frills décor, which is not a criticism. The pho is at the forefront along with quick and efficient service. The restaurant was busy during our stop on a weeknight, and we’ll definitely return.

Three Sisters is much larger, and the morning we were there during what was the first snowfall of the season, the service was spotty. Our waitress took our order – and then disappeared. We saw her depart, then return shortly after with a tray of Starbucks – and she was no longer our server.

The on-site manager, who was very sweet, apologized that parts of our order had to be requested again – sodas for the two kids and appetizers for the table – but the pho was plentiful, temperature hot and satisfying. For me, Le Pho and Three Sisters each serve solid pho. Just don’t be in a rush at the latter.

When the family dines out for pho, we also typically order spring rolls – the fried and non-fried variety usually described as “fresh” because the wrapper isn’t fried – and, because there are two kids at the tables, steamed or fried pot stickers (or dumplings or gyoza, different in name depending on the restaurant but essentially the same dish).

Pro tip: Here’s my pho secret to my dear new readers of The Spokesman-Review. My favorite pho restaurant in Spokane is Pho Van at 2909 N. Division St. in a building that was most definitely a Pizza Hut once upon a time.

It’s may favorite partly because I remember the relieving comfort of the piping-hot bowl of pho at Pho Van during previous visits to Spokane in December while battling the flu and thinking, “This is the best pho ever. Ever! More onions, Thai basil and Sriracha, please.”

Pho Van is fantastic, but Spokane Valley is fortunate to have at least two pho spots to satisfy that craving for a hot bowl of soup on a cold day. And Anya’s final words in this pho-to finish between Le Brothers and Three Sisters?

“Three Sisters was good, but I would return to Le Brothers first.” Spoken like a true 12-year-old pho aficionado.

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