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Thanh Nhi: What a find!

b
brattpowered Jan 3, 2008 11:25 AM

I've been on a quest to sample all of the Vietnamese restaurants in the North Lamar area, and I think I have finally found my favorite. Thanh Nhi has pho, vermicelli, rice plates, banh mi (sandwiches) and other assorted Vietnamese dishes at amazing prices (e.g. $1.75 for a small banh mi and $2.40 for a large).

Today I decided to start with the grilled pork spring rolls and finish off with a small grilled chicken banh mi. The spring rolls were medium sized, well packed, and did not fall apart. The pork was moist, warm and delicious. The peanut sauce that came with them was very tasty and was not runny like at some competitors.

The banh mi was also wonderful. The bread was flaky, crispy and fresh, and although this was a "small" sandwich that I got at a cost of $1.75, it was bursting with well spiced chicken, cucumber, carrot, jalapeno and fresh herbs. Some sriracha and hoisin sauces sealed the deal for me on this one.

The facilities are very clean and the staff is great. It has the feeling of a real family-run operation, and seems to be run by a couple, with help from their teenage daughter. The woman (who usually does most of the work) is pretty English-impaired, but is prompt and VERY friendly. I'm glad this place is around and I really hope it succeeds!

p.s. Thanks Rudeboy for including the location. The address is 9200 N Lamar Blvd, on the west side of the street just south of Rundberg. It's on the south side of the shopping center that houses Shalimar.

  1. rudeboy Jan 3, 2008 11:33 AM

    Thanks for your quest - Thanh Nhi sounds awesome. I'm there. FYI everyone, it's on State Spur 275 (aka Lamar), just south of Runberg.

    I was yahooing and found some pics of their food:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bootsint...

    1. abidonfood Jan 11, 2008 12:20 AM

      Wow, your review is right-on. Just checked this place out the other night. Gotta say, this is the quintessential mom-and-pop restaurant. The wife takes the orders and socializes with the customers, while the husband cooks the food and brings it out. You're right though, they're SUPER friendly, even being english-impaired...

      So i tried some spring rolls, banh mi, and bun. yeah... i was starving so kinda over-ordered. ;) I'm vegetarian and although there weren't any veggie options for the spring rolls and banh mi, they were happy to make us some veggie versions on the spot for us. i LOVE it when restaurants cater to vegetarians like that.

      ..The impromtu spring rolls weren't bad, but you're right about the peanut sauce--VERY good peanut sauce, not runny like most places. i'd say it's prolly the best peanut sauce in town.
      ..The impromptu veggie banh mi wasn't bad either. The bread though was fantastic--very fresh and toasty, but not overtly toasted. I think it's the best bread for banh mi in town, even better than Pho Van's bread. The filling wasn't bad, but i wouldn't complain about it since they did kinda make it up for us for the first time. add some sriracha, and you're good to go... ;)
      ..The bun (vermicelli) dish wasn't bad either. had the tofu, veggie, and lemongrass version. it came heavily sauced, which i wasn't expecting. didn't even need the fish sauce, if you were even gonna use it in the first place. it was SLIGHTLY sweet for my palate, but fixed that up with some sriracha and dried chili oil... ;)

      all-in-all, didn't think it was bad at all. would i come back? Definitely. Mostly because the service was SO friendly and i love helping out local mom-and-pop places. And especially since the wife said that next time we come, she'll make a special vegetarian pho for us. Now, how can I say no to THAT?... ;)

      4 Replies
      1. re: abidonfood
        c
        chucklesmcfarland Jan 13, 2008 02:12 PM

        I'd like to second or third the comments here.
        I got the same tofu bun as you did abidonfood and have the same opinion, a bit heavy on the sauce but soft tofu and fresh mushrooms, broccoli and carrots made it great.
        We also got the small chicken bahn mi and have to say that the sandwiches here are the real standout.
        How did they ad lib the veggie sandwich? I'll have to try that next time I am there (which will be often).
        FYI the bread is from Fiesta, I asked.
        And of course the service is super friendly and appreciative.
        Thanks for the rec brattpowered, I look forward to the next n lamar find.

        1. re: chucklesmcfarland
          abidonfood Jan 13, 2008 08:22 PM

          their veggie banh mi had the regular veggie assortment (shredded carrot, cucumber, jalapeno slices, etc), but they added strips of fried tofu to substitute for the meat. think maybe if they marinated the tofu in that extra lemongrass sauce that saturated the bun, it could've been better (not that it was bad though).

          Fiesta, huh? NEVER would have guessed... ;)

          1. re: abidonfood
            n
            nk. Apr 6, 2008 09:14 AM

            Thanks for the tip on the veggie bahn mi. I stopped into this place on a late night a couple of months ago and saw only meat sandwiches so I dismissed it.

            After your post, I dragged my dining companion up there. Their tofu bahn mi is pretty good. They also made tofu spring rolls for me which were also excellent. Owner suggested a couple of vegetarian dishes at the end. Better than the bahn mi at Tam's for sure. Not as great as one of the places that I go to in Houston, but definitely the best in Austin so far. I like this place a lot.

        2. re: abidonfood
          Daisy L Apr 12, 2008 04:14 PM

          Ate at Thanh Nhi last night. We ordered a lot of similar things. Bhanh Mi, Pho and a Chicken Lemongrass vermicelli bowl.

          Our experience was pretty much a repeat of Abidonfood's comments.

          Tasty, Friendly, Clean, Affordable.

          The ladies taking orders and serving were super nice and friendly.

        3. r
          robbie6805 Jan 11, 2008 07:36 AM

          I had the large combination sandwich, it was good. I also ordered the spring rolls, the ones with the crunchy thing in the middle, it was awesome. Best of all, the place is clean, the owners are very nice. I wish them the best.

          1. c
            Carter B. Jan 17, 2008 10:11 AM

            Given the positive reviews I went to Thanh Nhi today for lunch instead of my usual Tam's. I had the shrimp/pork spring rolls, wonton soup, and small combination pork bahn mi. Everthing was tasty but I was not as blown away as others in this thread. I thought the spring rolls were average at best (I also prefer to get a spoon with them to spoon the sauce onto the roll instead of dunking). The bahn mi had good bread but wasn't the taste sensation that I was looking for. The soup was probably the best of the three with a tasty broth and nicely done wontons. Prices are great as each dish was about $6.

            I'd go back again but we are so blessed with so many great Vietnamese restaurants in town, Thanh Nhi doesn't make my top three of Tam's, Sunflower and Lee's.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Carter B.
              abidonfood Jan 22, 2008 11:15 PM

              oh, i agree with you.... Sunflower, Le Soleil, and Tam's are still MY favorites... i was blown away by the friendly service more than anything. but i do tend to get the same service now at the previously mentioned three since i'm a regular customer there now...

            2. a
              amandapey Mar 4, 2008 05:53 PM

              I totally agree with the reviewer. Just tried this place for the first time tonight - was in the area to try Tam's (which, btw is closed on Tuesdays) but was shut out so I ventured north to Thanh Nhi.

              Between me and one other - we had a bowl of beef pho (I had the pho tai nam - #5), an order of veggie spring rolls, and two small pork/pate banh mi's - total came out to about $12, which for me is a pretty fabulous deal.

              First of all - as others have mentioned - the bread was the best sandwich bread I've had in Austin on any sandwich, period. It was amazing and has left me wondering who their supplier is. Also, I second the delicious peanut sauce.

              The pho was good and they put a liberal amount of meat in there - I hate places that only put in one or two slices.

              I think for many of the patrons though, the standout of this restaurant is the enthusiasm of the owners. I talked a bit to the wife before we left and she said the place has been open for about 7 months. I really hope they're doing well.

              It totally puzzles me how any restaurant in Austin can sell a sandwich that big for under $3 and still be in business - but from what I've read here that seems to be the going rate for Banh mi around here.

              2 Replies
              1. re: amandapey
                j
                jungleboy Mar 5, 2008 12:22 PM

                amandapey...I'm from San Francisco and my favorite Banh mi in the Vietnamese neighborhood on Larkin St. just went up to $2.25 from $1.95 for a fat (not fatty) roast pork sandwich; the super combo (two kinds of pork and pate is $2.50)...seems to be the going rate
                jungleboy

                1. re: jungleboy
                  a
                  amandapey Mar 11, 2008 01:25 PM

                  Yeah, after asking around that's what I've started to notice. Guess every other sandwich operation is just a rip off....[sigh]

              2. m
                markewallace Mar 10, 2008 09:35 AM

                Anybody know what the hours are for Thanh Nhi? I can't seem to find them on the web, and I know that several Vietnamese places are closed on either Mondays or Tuesdays. Wanna give this place a shot today if they're open.

                Thanks,

                Mark

                6 Replies
                1. re: markewallace
                  k
                  ktown378 Mar 10, 2008 10:12 AM

                  they're open 7 days a week 10am-9pm i believe. usually if vietnamese places are closed, it's on a tuesday. hope you enjoy your meal and report back!

                  1. re: ktown378
                    s
                    scoutaustin Mar 17, 2008 09:12 AM

                    I believe they are closed on Monday.

                    1. re: scoutaustin
                      k
                      ktown378 Mar 17, 2008 07:03 PM

                      really? i've been on a monday before. did they change their hours/days of operation? i'll have to call before i head over if i go on a monday.

                      1. re: ktown378
                        abidonfood Mar 17, 2008 07:08 PM

                        just tried going today. yes, they're closed on Mondays... oh well, Tam's Deli was still open and just down the road... ;)

                        1. re: abidonfood
                          k
                          ktown378 Mar 17, 2008 07:21 PM

                          i stand corrected. thanks for saving me the gas, because i probably wouldn't have remembered to call and check. ah yes, i haven't had tams in ages.

                    2. re: ktown378
                      Daisy L Apr 20, 2008 06:13 PM

                      Just had dinner at Thanh Nhi - and i can confirm they are closed on Monday. The hours on the door show closed on Monday, and there were some added signs inside stating the same....

                  2. rollingplate Mar 10, 2008 11:11 AM

                    I finally made it to Thanh Nhi. When I tried to order the grilled pork spring roll the owner's wife, who was hovering at my table, insisted that I should try the pork paste roll, which I did. The experience was like when your grandmother would insist you have another bowl of chicken noodle soup. What are you gonna do? It was the best and most interesting spring roll I've found in town. Fresh lettuce, pickled vegies, the pork, plus the unexpected, crunchy addition of what I think she explained to me was fried egg roll skin rolled into a small tube. Great contrast of textures. I often prefer eating classic ethnic food done traditionally, but I always give extra points for signature preparations like this one. As others have stated, the peanut sauce was excellent, however (another surprise) the sauce was presented warm which made it that much better.

                    The large grilled pork bahn mi was good but not outstanding. From reading other reviews I expected a little more filling, but it was still worth the cost. Unfortunately, I just didn't the noticeable "char" flavor I always look forward to. Also, that light bodied Mexican-style roll is not my favorite. I'm more of a genuine Baguette-like style bread fan like I've found in other parts of the country.

                    Overall, I was very satisfied with the food and the friendliness and competence of service-a rarity in much of the Austin restaurant scene. The soups I spied on at other tables look well filled with ingredients and I intend to return soon and try some of those as wekk as the bun.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: rollingplate
                      f
                      foodiegal71 Mar 10, 2008 02:39 PM

                      I've been twice in the past week so I think I like it :) The first time I had the pork spring roll and the pork banh mi and found both to be good, although, the bread was a little rough for my taste.

                      The second time, I had the pork and pork paste banh mi which I really, really liked. That was my first experience with pork paste and it's pretty tasty. Some other with me ordered the pho (plain beef) and I tried that. I thought the broth was a little bland.

                      All in all, I really like this place, and I love the owners. They are so genuine and happy! It's quite a drive for me from south Austin, but definitely worth it.

                      1. re: foodiegal71
                        r
                        RoundSparrow Apr 5, 2008 08:31 AM

                        Any suggestions for places _IN_ South Austin?

                        1. re: RoundSparrow
                          f
                          foodiegal71 Apr 5, 2008 11:27 AM

                          There's Lulu Bs, a trailer on Oltorf and S. Lamar next to Office Depot. It's good, but not as cheap as the north places.

                    2. s
                      singlemalt Jul 6, 2008 10:06 AM

                      Thanh Nhi, not for me. First of all, be informed that this is not a Vietnamese restuarant in the traditional sense of a restuarant. It is not like Sunflower nor Le Soliel in that they have a menu with VN dishes such as Shaken Beef, 5 Spice Chicken, etc. It is basically another pho, vermicelli place and, imo, not a very good one at that. Now I have read the reviews here and on Yelp and am having a difficult time believing my eyes and my taste buds, in additiion to those of my wife. "Boring" covers it best. The spring rolls with pork were tasteless with hardly a teaspoonful of pork in them and it was all in one batch on the side of the roll. Likewise, the vegetable sprince roll was the same with a slice of tofu just tucked in inside the wrap. The pork in my wife's dish (64) was stale tasting, and the eggroll in my son's dish was bland and also did not taste freshly made. I know I am going against the grain here but I will not return. So many other places, imo, do as good as, if not better job. Sorry.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: singlemalt
                        rudeboy Jul 6, 2008 10:22 AM

                        I found their Banh Mi passable, but not exceptionally outstanding (I was spoiled by Ba Le). However, their broth left me thinking that I need to re-think my general disdain for Pho. I'm not sure if you tried their pho.

                        Although, singlemalt, I do prefer a more "total" viet restaurant as you describe.....

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