Alas, New York City isn’t one of the great Vietnamese culinary capitals of the world. Which is too bad, because, at least in our minds, Vietnamese cuisine is one of the best on the globe. But you can still find some decent Viet grub. You just have to know where to look. So without further ado, we present Our 10 Best Vietnamese Restaurants. (For this list, we decided not to include fusiony places like Má Pêche or spots that primarily sell banh mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches, no matter how delicious they might be. Sorry, Ba Xuyen and Banh Mi Saigon Bakery, we’ll get you on a 10 Best Banh Mis.)
10. Pho Bang — Pho, the beef-and-rice-noodle soup, is the way to go at this Vietnamese restaurant. The Saigon-style broth is rich and full of warming spices. Add in an extra squirt of hoisin and chile sauce and you’re good to go. Maybe throw in an order of steamed rice crepes, too. We also love this restaurant because they serve bun cha Ha Noi, the Hanoian-style grilled pork patties over rice noodles. Unfortunately, it’s not an amazing rendition of bun cha Ha Noi. But we believe that mediocre bun cha Ha Noi is still better than no bun cha Ha Noi at all. 157 Mott Street, 212-966-3797
9. Gia Lam II — Sunset Park is now home to several Vietnamese restaurants, although many are run by Chinese. Still, the food isn’t bad at this spot, smack-dab in the bustle of Eighth Avenue. The shrimp paste on sugarcane is a good bet for a starter, and the barbecue beef with sesame seasoning is as tender as can be. 5414 Eighth Avenue, 718-567-0800
8. Tu Do — Skip the pho at this Vietnamese eatery, which recently moved across the street into nicer digs. Beef dishes like bo luc lac are good, as are the curries, and the sour soups are particularly noteworthy. Or be adventurous and opt for rice cakes and eggs. 102 Bowery, 212-966-2666
7. V-Nam Café — This tiny café with its limited menu nails the soul of Vietnamese cooking better than many bigger places with expansive offerings. The crispy fried spring rolls are surefire winners, as are some of the clay-pot dishes, like the ones made with caramel fish. 20 First Avenue, 212-780-6020
6. Pho Grand — This long-standing Grand Street restaurant offers up the same big menu of Viet specialties that you’ll find in most places. The bun, or rice-noodle dishes, are particularly worthwhile, as are the beef dishes (try the bo nuong vi), plus they serve a good lau, a/k/a steampot. The sort of jungly décor is an added bonus. 277 Grand Street, 212-965-5366
5. Nha Hang Pho Viet Huong — Not everything is amazing here, but it holds a soft spot in our hearts because it’s one of the few spots in the city where you can find banh xeo, the large crispy crepe filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts, which is then rolled in lettuce leaves and dipped into nuoc cham. The menu also features che bay mau, or seven-colored dessert, which is a step up, because most places only have che bam au, or three-color dessert. And those four colors really make all the difference. Wanna double-down on all things seven? You can get beef seven ways here. 73 Mulberry Street, 212-233-8988 4. Cong Ly — The restaurant won’t win any awards for ambiance, but that’s not why you’ve come. You’re here for big bowls of hearty pho and jumbo, tightly packed summer rolls stuffed with shrimp. The menu is smaller than most spots, but you’re good to go if you stay on track as suggested. 124 Hester Street, 212-343-1111
3. Co Ba — The roster here includes some yummy finds not usually seen at other New York Vietnamese restaurants, like coconut rice cakes topped with shrimp, and a pungent mix of ground pork, wood-ear mushrooms, jicama, and fried shallots. The banh uot thit nuong — a jumble of succulent grilled pork, bouncy Vietnamese ham, cucumbers, fried shallots, herbs, and cool, thick rice noodles — is also great, as is the pork belly in caramel clay pot. Plus the ambiance beats many of the Chinatown joints. 110 Ninth Avenue, 212-414-2700
2. Nha Trang — There are a couple branches of this restaurant, named after the coastal town in Southern Vietnam. The one on Baxter Street is the best of the bunch, though. Unsurprisingly, the seafood is quite tasty, especially the salt and pepper shrimp and some of the squid dishes. We’re also big fans of the chicken pho, which actually uses chicken broth instead of beef, like many other places around town. 87 Baxter Street, 212-233-5948
1. Thanh Da — This small restaurant dishes up a great banh mi, that’s for sure, but the real reason to ride the N train over to Sunset Park is for their bun bo Hue, the spicy beef soup from Hue, located in Central Vietnam. The rich broth is packed with fiery chiles and showered with herbs; it’s an instant cure for a cold or just general hunger. It’s also one of the few spots in New York where you can find other regional soups like the crab-paste-and-tomato-based bun rieu. The flavors here are authentic and spot-on, which is why it grabs top honors. 6008 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-492-3253
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