Food & Drink

The Everyman’s Guide to the Best Vietnamese Food in NYC

Published On 01/04/2016 Published On 01/04/2016
Patty Lee/Thrillist

While we love a good bowl of pho, there’s so much more to Vietnamese food than just the noodle soup. To help you navigate through the growing number of Vietnamese eateries in town, we’ve put together a guide on where to find the very best options, broken down by dish. From a superior bánh mì shop in Sunset Park to two restaurants run by Slanted Door alums, here’s where to go to get your fix.

Bo luc lac (shaking beef)

Bun-Ker Vietnamese

Address and Info

Ridgewood

Located on the industrial border between Brooklyn and Queens, this bamboo-thatched spot turns out some of the city’s finest Vietnamese cooking, courtesy of brothers Jimmy and Jacky Tu. A must-order is their take on bo luc lac, featuring seared beef cubes punched up with toasted peanuts and fried garlic.

Patty Lee/Thrillist

Pho

Lucy’s Vietnamese Kitchen

Address and Info

Bushwick

Believe it or not, one of the city’s best bowls of pho is… vegetarian. That’s right. Instead of the usual meats and marrow, Chef Johnny Huynh uses mushrooms, star anise, cinnamon, charred shallots, and ginger to tease out a broth that’s both hearty and light, brimming with fresh rice noodles, shiitakes, and bok choy. Hardcore carnivores, fear not. You have the option to add tender slabs of smoked beef brisket, which add yet another layer of flavor to this already complex noodle soup.

Chả giò (spring rolls)

Saigon Shack

Address and Info

Greenwich Village

If good spring rolls are your jam, then add this NYU favorite to your rotation. With minced pork, shrimp, and rice noodles encased in a golden-brown shell, the crunchy cigars are certifiably addictive.

Courtesy of Bricolage

Bánh xèo

Bricolage

Address and Info

Park Slope

From the open kitchen, you can easily spy SF’s Slanted Door vets Edward and Lien Lin at work, dropping their house-made rice flour batter -- flavored with mung bean paste, turmeric, and a hint of beer -- into a sizzling cast-iron pan, along with bits of pork, shrimp, onions, and bean sprouts. Once the proteins are tender and the exterior is crisp, the pancake arrives teetering on a plate with lettuce, mint, basil, and nước chấm for wrapping and dipping to your heart’s content

Patty Lee/Thrillist

Bánh mì

Ba Xuyên

Address and Info

Sunset Park

Everything about the bánh mì at this barebones sandwich shop is top-notch, from the crusty baguettes to the assortment of meats. While all eight options are excellent, it’s the No. 1 -- smeared with a luscious layer of pâté and crammed full of Vietnamese cold cuts and crunchy pickled vegetables -- that keeps us coming back again and again.

Patty Lee/Thrillist

Bún chả

Sao Mai

Address and Info

East Village

The house special Bun Sao Mai comes with a bit of everything: chopped spring rolls, grilled shrimp, pork, and vermicelli, all for you to douse in the house nước chấm. It’s a satisfyingly good meal, whether you eat in or take out.

Courtesy of Falansai

Ca kho to (clay pot catfish)

Falansai

Address and Info

Bushwick

Chef Henry Trieu -- another alum of Slanted Door -- gave a childhood favorite a modern update when he opened this cozy French-Vietnamese eatery. Tweaking a family recipe, Trieu braises catfish fillets with tomatillos, scallions, onions, and bell peppers in a clay pot until succulent. Coated in a sweet-savory fish sauce that’s been caramelized during the cooking process, the pot’s bubbling hot contents are best when spooned over a big bowl of rice.

Courtesy of Le Colonial

Gỏi cuốn (summer roll)

Le Colonial

Address and Info

Midtown East

Unlike the stiff summer rolls we’ve all gotten as part of a takeout dinner, the ones at this fancy Midtown restaurant are as fresh as they come -- the supple, see-through wrappers bursting with whole poached prawns, shredded lettuce, vermicelli, and mint. They come with a peanut hoisin dipping sauce that needs to be bottled, ASAP.

Patty Lee/Thrillist

Bún bò Huế

Thanh Da

Address and Info

Sunset Park

The fiery red color is an obvious clue that this noodle soup comes with a serious kick. Native to Vietnam’s central city of Huế, the bowl is a true belly-warmer, chock-full of beef, bones, and slippery, spaghetti-like noodles. One slurp and you’ll see why it deserves more time in the spotlight.

Coffee

JoJu

Address and Info

Elmhurst

The cup of joe at this Queens bánh mì shop is as classic as they come: New Orleans' Café du Monde grind gets filtered slowly through a Vietnamese coffee filter and sweetened with condensed milk. But like the creative menu (bánh mì fries, anyone?!), you can go a little less traditional with variations like a chocolate-infused mocha or a Frappuccino-like drink topped with whipped cream.

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Patty Lee is a reporter and editor who has written for Zagat, Time Out New York, New York Daily News, and Cooking Channel. She will happily live on a diet of pho and bánh mì. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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1. Bun-ker 46-63 Metropolitan Ave, Ridgewood, NY 11385 (Queens)

If you spot a hungry crowd hanging around this industrial stretch of Queens, then you’re in the right place. The wait in line is actually worth it because you’re rewarded with elevated Vietnamese street eats turned out by Eleven Madison Park alum Jimmy Tu. The impressive chicken pho is light and clean, amped up with plenty of herbs and spices.

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3. Saigon Shack 114 Macdougal St, New York, NY 10012

We are obsessed with their cha gio. You need to try them.

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4. Bricolage 162 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11217 (Park Slope)

Bricolage exudes the intimate feeling that you're eating dinner at a Park Slope brownstone, albeit one decked out in princess chandeliers and dishing plates of modern, Vietnamese fare. The chefs and owners worked at The Slanted Door in San Francisco before setting up shop in Brooklyn, and you'll be pleasantly surprised at the inventive creations coming from Bricolage's open kitchen, like Sriracha butter wings, pork ribs in tamarind-hoisin sauce, and savory crepes with mushrooms and bean sprouts. While the dimly lit, exposed brick space has an irresistibly cozy vibe, we can't think of a better place to bite into summer rolls than on the gorgeous back patio.

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5. Ba Xuyen 4222 8th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11232

Their banh mi is out of this world and you need it right now.

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6. Sao Mai 203 1st Ave, New York, NY 10003 (East Village)

Sao Mai is a pint-sized Vietnamese noodle spot in the East Village that's slinging up superior bowls of pho and bun. The unassuming shop features subtle-yet-spicy takes on characteristic Viet dishes -- including a special house beef broth loaded with fatty brisket, rib-eye, and meatballs -- plus offers BYOB when you dine in. Large portions and an under-$10 lunch special make Sao Mai a reliable and tasty choice.

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7. Falansai 112 Harrison Pl, Brooklyn, NY 11237

French-inspired Vietnamese street food occupy Falansai's inventive menu, including papaya salad, lamb pho, and a variety of wines.

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8. Le Colonial NYC 149 E 57th St, New York, NY 10022

You need to try their goi cuon. You won't regret it.

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9. Thanh Da 6008 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11220 (Sunset Park)

Located on the edge of Brooklyn’s Chinatown, this hole-in-the-wall proves to be a reliable stop for piping hot pho. Not only is the staff super friendly, but the top-notch noodle soups are absolutely brimming with meat, onions, and fragrant basil leaves.

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10. JoJu 83-25 Broadway, Elmhurst, NY 11373 (Queens)

This Queens spot takes Vietnamese cuisine up a notch by adding fries, creating favorites like Banh Mi fries and Kimchi fries. Try the loaded fries: We love banh mi. We love French fries. And this Queens hangout ingeniously COMBINES THE TWO by garnishing crunchy potatoes with classic Vietnamese sandwich fixin's (pickled carrots, daikon, cilantro, and jalapeños), spicy mayo, and a zingy house-made green sauce. Oh, and you can can top it all off with an optional (only in name) fried egg.

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