As the cold, dull Virginia winter approaches, it always seems that coffee, soup and any warm, cozy foods taste exponentially better. I always find myself craving pho in the winter as a light and comforting option for lunch or dinner. Around the University, Kuma and Got Dumplings on the Corner are both popular and conveniently located options for ramen and pho bowls. I’ve tried many different spots around Charlottesville in search for the perfect pho, and I can confidently say Thai Cuisine & Noodle House is the best I have tried. Accessibility Located on Commonwealth Drive, Thai Cuisine & Noodle House is somewhat of a hidden gem for University students. For many students, the scope of eating out tends to stay within the Corner and the Downtown Mall. Thai Noodle House may be thought of as further away and less convenient, but it’s about a 10-minute drive from Grounds and is accessible by the CAT Route 7 bus. The restaurant is located right behind the Shops at Stonefield and has plenty of parking. Stonefield is a popular destination for many when looking for a sit-down restaurant or a fast bite, but I think that Thai Noodle House unfortunately goes unnoticed for many students. Next time you are headed to a movie at Stonefield on a cold winter night, make Thai Noodle House the pre-movie dinner. Despite the fact that I have not heard much buzz about this restaurant at the University, it certainly is not as unknown by the rest of Charlottesville. I went for lunch on a Friday around 1 p.m. and grabbed the last available booth in the restaurant. It was packed, which can almost always infer you’ve hit the jackpot. Atmosphere The restaurant is an open, medium-sized room with various tables and booths. The atmosphere is simplistic, and not very modern or out of the ordinary, but the food is what really takes the spotlight. Although the interior is somewhat average looking, the service was absolutely phenomenal. Upon seeing how crowded the restaurant was, I was expecting to have to wait a decent while to have our food ready but was pleasantly proven wrong. Our appetizers came out within minutes, and our entrées followed shortly after. This is a huge success because many restaurants around Charlottesville, such as Fig or Asado, have amazing food but will keep you waiting for unprecedented amounts of time after you order. Affordability One of the most impressive feats of Thai Noodle House is how affordable their entire menu is. Every appetizer is under $8, with most for around $5. A small pho is $8.50, while a large is $10.50, and the large is more than enough for the average person. Some of the Chef’s Special entrées are around $15, but for the most part the entrées are between $9 to $15. With this pricing, you are getting a fair amount of food, authentic flavor and tasteful presentation. Appeal Now to the good stuff — the food. I came into Thai Noodle House wanting pho and pho only, but I tried much more than that and will without a doubt be going back to try more. When it comes to appetizers, the thai dumplings — called Kanom Jeeb — are a must. The dumplings consist of ground pork, chicken and shiitake mushrooms and are a yummy twist on a traditional pork dumpling you might get at a Chinese restaurant. If you are looking for a lighter option, try the vegetable rolls. Crunchy, fresh veggies wrapped inside rice paper — you can’t ask for much of a lighter option than that. When it came time to order entrées, it didn’t take me long to decide to order the Chicken Pho. But the menu has not three or four but 18 different types of pho to choose from. Though it’s interesting that a Thai restaurant has so many pho options, their website says that they “are first and foremost a Thai restaurant but we also take pride in serving Vietnamese Pho” — which I thought they executed with great authenticity. The pho’s clear bone broth is complemented by scallions and onions, satisfying any cold-weather craving. Thin rice noodles soak up the flavor of the broth and work perfectly with the thinly cut pieces of chicken. My favorite part of the pho, though, is the side plate of fresh bean sprouts, thai basil, lime and sliced jalapeños for the spice lovers out there. Decorating your bowl with these incredibly fresh, tasty toppings takes your pho to a whole new level. Beyond pho, Thai Noodle House has an assortment of Thai noodle bowls, curry, wok fried noodles, fried rice, stir frys and chef’s specials — proving that pho is not Thai Noodle House’s only specialty. I also tried their Massaman Curry. It was a harmony of flavors and spices without being overly powerful or spicy. With a variety dishes, there really is something for everyone on the menu. Take a trip to Thai Cuisine & Noodle House, and you can say bye-bye to chicken noodle soup to combat the winter viruses and say hello to pho! Maggie Trundle is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.