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Dec 21, 2008 05:15 AM

MSP: Best Vietnamese?

We all talk about our vietnamese restaurants. They aren't all the same and they aren't all terrific.

Where? Why? What to order? Don't feel you need to pick only one.

I like the Bahn Mi (sandwiches) at Saigon Bakery at Dale and University.

I'm not sure who makes the best Pho.

What about crispy egg rolls? BBQ pork over noodles or broken rice? Lemongrass chicken or beef?

I've been to Quang Deli on Nicollet, Trei Chau on University, Pho 79 on Energy Park Drive, Mai Village on University, Hoa Bien at University and Lexington, Ngon Bistro on University and Saigon Bakery on University. Those are the ones I can remember. There are a few others that have come and gone that I've tried and forgotten.

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  1. Saigon for sandwiches
    Quang for pho and sea bass soup
    Jasmine deli for charbroiled pork noodle salad
    Everywhere for spring rolls but especially Jasmine Deli and Saigon

    I cant seem to get myself to go anywhere else

    1. Truc Nam also has amazing Bahn Mi sandwiches

      On the north side of univ. east of Saigon.

      4 Replies
      1. re: St Paul Susie

        You're all forgetting Pho Tau Bay, my personal favorite.

        1. re: salvage7

          Is Pho Tau Bay the one at the extreme south end of Eat Street (28th & Nicollet-ish)?

          If it is, I remember two meals there that I liked. A lot.

          1. re: JimGrinsfelder

            Yup, that's the one. What did you have?

        2. re: St Paul Susie

          I believe you are referring to Trung Nam

        3. Pho Tau Bay for cheap pho
          Ngon Bistro for expensive pho
          Quang for sea bass soup and egg rolls
          Ngon Bistro or Quang for bun (noodle salad)

          7 Replies
          1. re: churchka

            I like Saigon for Bun. Ngon isnt really vietnamese food. It is more of a fusion place. I suppose it might satisfy a desire for Vietnamese though so it could certainly be mentioned, just thought it would temper expectations if someone was looking for authentic Vietnamese.

            Anyone speak about specifics of Mai Village? Co-workers go sometimes but it is more expensive than Saigon which I prefer as it is.

            1. re: babaoriley7

              Since the smoking ban, I really like Saigon Bakery on University (not to be confused with the Saigon Restaurant on Lyndale). I don't really care for Ngon. Lots of people like it, but it's not my cup of tea.

              I guess I'm missing out on Sea bass soup at Quang. I'll get over there and try it ASAP. That's why I like discussions like this one. I learn from them.

              I'll hit Jasmine for BBQ pork.


              1. re: JimGrinsfelder

                FYI, the sea bass soup is definitely worth a trip. It is only available on weekends.

              2. re: babaoriley7

                I agree, Ngon is almost Americanized Vietnamese... however they have a clean atmosphere, and the food is pretty good (but i always get chicken Bun).

                1. re: ashii

                  i'd say that ngon is more of a french and vietnamese fusion, and the chef incorporates locally available foods like rabbit, duck, pork belly, etc. on the dinner menu. ngon doesn't bill itself as a traditional house-of-pho-style establishment (it bills itself as a bistro establishment), yet the bun salads & the pho are very similar to the offering's at the family's other restaurants, and the diner is free to stray all over the menu according to her/his own preferences. ngon also probably has one of the best smaller all-local beer lists in town (new 10-tap system, for those who haven't been there in a while), with a thoughtfully composed wine list too. ngon shouldn't be dismissed because the proprietor is second-gen and has chosen to open a different type of establishment than quang/pho tau bay/pho 79 etc. :(

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    I concur with soupkitten. I expect we'll be seeing more restaurants in the vein of Ngon around here, as the Hmong population continues to assimilate. This is the same track other immigrant groups have followed.

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Because of this post, my husband and I tried Ngon last Wednesday. I have a little bit of experience with Vietnamese food. I was a regular at Mai Village for lunch when I worked nearby, and I've tried Hoa Bien a few times and been unimpressed.

                      Anyway, we were both blown away by the food here. We started with the shrimp egg rolls, which were so delicious and perfect that I could easily have made a meal out of them. They're smaller in diameter than most egg rolls, and they're not overloaded with boring cabbage filler. The exterior was crunchy and not too greasy. The interior was heaven - perfectly seasoned, nice and hot, great shrimp flavor. I highly recommend them.

                      I got the tofu bun and my husband got some kind of pho (I think it was #11), and we were both very impressed. The only element I didn't care for about my bun were the green beans - they didn't have a great flavor, and they just seemed incongruous with the rest of the ingredients. But the tofu was fantastic - it had a flavorful glaze on them, and it wasn't rubbery. And their fish sauce is great. My husband loved his pho.

                      Thanks for the great (and accurate, at least to my perception) post about Ngon, soupkitten!

              3. In addition to all the good things mentioned, we really love the limeade at the various Vietnamese places. It's great at Saigon and at Quang (our two main places), though different: at Quang it's carbonated; it's not at Saigon.

                My wife now wants to try this sea bass soup at Quang (I don't eat seafood)... maybe next time!

                1. the seabass soup at quang is one of the best meals in msp & the fact that it's under $10 is truly kickass. the meatball pho at ngon (very traditional, dammit) is another fave of mine. ngon also does a great bun salad (pork is my fave)-- but the best glazed pork bun salad in msp might be at chindian!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: soupkitten

                    Que Nha -- University and Victoria -- is my favorite place for pho and more...

                    1. re: mncharm

                      Also fun for the make-your-own spring rolls. Put me on a year-long quest to get my own trays to do this at home!