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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.

              Thanks!

              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!

                  2. Pho 79 for Bun... do doubt about it. Best marinated chicken in the midwest!

                    1. In addition to their delicious and cheap pho, definitely Pho Tau Bay for bun. Their grilled pork over rice noodle salad (#36 on the menu) is top notch.

                      1. For Pho...or soup...I took a friend who has recently spent a month in Vietnam...to Pho Tau Bay on Nicollett. He thought it was great, so did I, but i go twice a month.

                        1. If you want good Banh Mi, try Saigon Deli on Nicollet. They also have some packaged food on the counter that is hard to describe, but good. Especially the little pork loaf things with the slice of chili and garlic on top. It is tucked into the parking lot behind Taco Morales. Jasmine 26 is terrific and has a more upscale feel while keeping the prices in line with other restaurants, plus they have beer and great cocktails. Qhe Nha is good as well and their menu has items not seen at many (or any) others restaurants.

                          1. I'm a fan of the pho at Pho Ca Dau on University. Very complex broth.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Uisge

                              I know most of these have been in the immediate metro area, but you might want to try Vietnam House out in Brooklyn Park. It is personally my favorite for Pho (I drive from St. Paul just for theirs) and their egg rolls are great too!

                              Does any place serve Bánh cuốn anymore?

                              1. re: blaksnake

                                Quang Deli on Nicollet has it on the weekends only.

                            2. Okay, so I've been reading the chowboards about this Pho soup. I've never had it and I'm not even a big fan of Vietnamese food. Based on what I read, everyone's been suggesting Quang's sea bass soup. So I ordered some of this on Friday to go. First of all, the place was jam packed out the door--for the lunch rush. And the soup was great. I wasn't sure exactly how to eat it because it comes with a bunch of crisp vegetables. I just dumped most of it into the broth with the noodles. I added some lime juice and some sriracha--and it was delicious. The soup was only $10. I'm assuming that the best way to eat this would be at the restaurant. It was my first foray into vietnamese (authentic, anyway) and I was impressed. Next time, I'd like to try a shrimp/seafood Pho somewhere.

                              1. Pho Tao Bay for the pork over noodles (Bun thit nuong). NOBODY does it better.

                                1. Que Nha on University Ave for their Nem Nuong. It's the closest thing to the authentic Vietnamese food that I had when I visited Vietnam years ago.

                                  Im not sure if other Vietnamese restaurants in Twin Cities even have Nem Nuong in their menu. Oh wait .. Nem Nuong is also not in Que Nha's menu, but they always make this dish for me when I ask. :)

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: moomon

                                    Owner has told me she could suggest some delicious things off the menu. Can you describe what Nem Nuong is?

                                    1. re: stymie

                                      Nem Nuong off the menu that I always get from Que Nha comes in the set of 4 main things -- the grilled pork patties (but the original version that i had back in Vietnam is grilled pork meatballs), fresh spring roll wrappers, a huge plate of fresh vegi with vermicelli noodle, and a little cup of dipping sauce. It's actually like rolling your fresh spring rolls by yourself.

                                      They actually have a very similar dish on the menu, but they serve grilled .. (i think im not so sure though) .. beef and shrimp instead of grilled pork patties. Now that I think of it, they have Nem Nuong rolls on the appetizer list, but it's not as good as the whole set that you have to roll by yourself though. :)

                                    2. Lu's or Jasmine for Bahn Mi. The meatball Bahn Mi at Jasmine is awesome and the owners are really nice.

                                      Across from the ACE hardwear store on Nicollet (about 18th or 16th street) there's a pho place that is awesome in the sense that you walk in and there are immediately boxes in your way to slide past. It has a little sign in the window that says "Best Soup in Town," which I would agree with (as Saigon, Ngon, and Bangkok are in Saint Paul). I think it´s called Pho Quan. There's a white board with the menu (three different kinds of Pho, three sizes) and you get the most massive bowl for 7 dollars. Like, large to the point of being comical that anyone could ever eat that much soup (the white board says no sharing but they can be lax about that rule).

                                      Quang for pretty much anything. Probably my favorite eggrolls in Minneapolis. Pork chop and eggroll salad is unbeatable. Sugarcane shrimp over broken rice is great.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: larssten

                                        Is Lu's open? I noticed it for the first time about a month ago and made a point to investigate. When I went back later, it seemed very very closed.

                                        If you really want to eat an absurd amount of pho, check out Saigon's Pho King contest--you've got 45 mins to eat 10 lbs of soup. If you finish it, it's free and you get a free t-shirt. If you don't, you pay and have the option to buy a "loser" t-shirt. Details on their facebook page.

                                        Bangkok Thai Deli is, of course, Thai, not Vietnamese. Still fantastic though.

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          How much soup is 10 pounds of soup? No one has actually finished that have they? I know from personal experience that drinking more than a gallon of any liquid is very, very hard.

                                          I went to Lu's a couple times a little over a month ago and it was open. Haven't been there in a while because I'm not in the city right now. That's too bad if it's gone already, it was a nice place...

                                          Oh, and I just meant I prefer soup at Bangkok over the pho place I mentioned, not that it was Vietnamese.

                                          1. re: larssten

                                            Saigon's vague description of the bowl is that it is about 4X the size of the XL bowl. And, this past Sunday I witnessed someone win the t-shirt, about five seconds before he ran to the (nasty) restroom and hurled. He came back smiling...

                                            Their rules are kinda odd for Minnesotans AND typical for Vietnamese... you don't need to drink/eat all the broth, just the meat and noodles. Remembering that the solids in pho are their food, and the liquid, tasty though it is, is just there to keep the solids hot.

                                            1. re: HuaGung

                                              huh, this is interesting! About the liquid in the pho being mostly there to keep the solids hot. I always struggle to finish my small size bowl of pho, but yes, I think it's mostly because I'm trying to drink the broth as well. And I'm always amazed at all the people who get the larger bowls. It starts to make sense now!

                                      2. There is a superb Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurant on University that seems to get little love from the larger food community: Al Hues Bakery and Deli. It's literally behind Krua Thai on University, just west of Little Szechuan. They do a whole range of Vietnamese soups beyond the typical pho and sea food soups -- the menu seems to go deeper then a lot of the standards found in most local restaurants. They have a great duck leg soup with a ginger dipping sauce that's great. I also love the Hue-style spicy soup, which comes with fatty beef that hits the spot. The broth for the various soups is really fresh and well-done. On the weekends, it's mobbed by the Vietnamese community. Equal to Saigon and better than Quang's, Jasmine, Pho Tau Bay, etc. in my opinion.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: down the gullet

                                          Protip!

                                          It is on my must-try list. Thank you.

                                          1. re: down the gullet

                                            whoops -- on further research, I think the correct spelling is "Ai Hues" (with an i instead of an l)....fyi. Love the place.

                                            1. re: down the gullet

                                              Ai Hue also has the best bahn mi going, ask you me - head and shoulders above the Truang Bakery. But if you aren't there before 12:00 noon, you are likely to lose out. Terrible atmosphere - too crowded and stressy even for me - but worth going for the sandwiches and Hue soup as take-away.

                                            2. The best Pho, hands down, Destiny Cafe. It is a block before you get to Lexington going west on University. It is a Hmong owned restaurant with the best Pho. You have to go behind a gold/orange brick building to park and enter
                                              995 University Avenue West St Paul, MN 55104-4796 - (651) 649-0394
                                              It is not the best decorated place, or anything compared to Mai's Village, but it has good pho consistently each time. I wouldn't go anywhere else. Order the "Destiny Pho" I believe it should be the special where it has all the variety of meats even roasted pork belly.