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New Years Resolution: Explore Vietnamese Restaurants in MSP

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For a long time I've heard about the great Vietnamese restaurants in the Twin City area. But because I live in the northern suburbs I rarely find myself near any of them. I'm making a resolution for the next year to stop using that excuse and make these places destinations unto themselves. But in order to do that I need some help.

I'm not entirely new to Vietnamese cuisine. When I was growing up we were family friends with a Vietnamese family who immigrated to the U.S. in the mid 70's. They regularly fed us with home cooked meals which blew my young palate into heaven. As a result I'm the only Midwesterner I know who thinks of fish sauce as comfort food.

When it comes to the top Vietnamese restaurants in the area I know Ngon Bistro is mentioned a lot. And Quang. And Pho Tau Bay. And I'm sure there are others as well. I've never been to any of them. So far my Vietnamese restaurant experience in MSP has consisted of The Pink Flower in Mounds View, and Vina Plus on the corner of Fairview and University in Saint Paul. Both are fine, but I'd love to experience better.

I'm looking for tips in approaching the best Vietnamese restaurants in the area as an extended tour. I'd like opinions for what should be ordered where. Also what places are the MUST dines, versus the optionals? Can any Chowhounds help?

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Pho Tau Bay
2837 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

Vina Plus
1821 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

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  1. Pho Tau Bay is one of the better everyday restaurants. There are better but this one is a gem

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    Pho Tau Bay
    2837 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

    1. Quang is definitely my favorite and most frequent stop. One of my other favorites is Than Doh in St. Louis Park. It's in a little strip on Minnetonka Blvd... totally not in a place you'd expect good authentic Vietnamese food, but every time I've been the food has been fantastic! They also have Thai and some "fusion" dishes. I go with a spring rolls and a different soup almost every single time, but my dad goes for the curries, and the bf always gets the cranberry/scallion cream cheese puffs and one of the "Than Doh specialties".

      Rice Paper (50th & France area) moved from Linden Hills and expanded their menu. I know it's not the "hole in the wall" type restaurant, but still very good, and you *MUST* get the Delta Bowl! I promise you wont' be disappointed!!

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      Rice Paper Restaurant
      2726 W 43rd St, Minneapolis, MN 55410

      1. My New Year's revolution is to eat up and down University Avenue, which certainly crosses paths with this initiative.

        Since you are on the North side, don't miss Pho Tan Phat for their weekend Duck soup special, or Kim Anh for their Bahn Mi.

        Quang is a good base point for just about everything. You can try a dish, and see how other restaurants compare.

        Jasmine 26 and Ngon do a more upscale take on the cuisine, and both are well worth a visit. J26 uses more sophisticated techniques, while Ngon focuses on local sourcing.

        You have to be selective, since they have needlessly expanded their menu, but Hoa Bien does some pretty unique items well.

        Don't feel compelled to abandon Vina. They did some good work bringing the cuisine here, and do plenty of dishes well. I put their hot and spicy chicken in the same category as Pham's cranberry curry. It's not authentic, but I still crave it.

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        Jasmine 26 Restaurant & Bar
        , Minneapolis, MN 55401

        2 Replies
        1. re: kevin47

          Thanks for recommending Pho Than Phat. It's such a little hole in the wall I would never have thought to stop in. I stopped for lunch when I was out and about today to try their Pho. Really tasty stuff. I didn't see the duck soup special - perhaps that's a dinner thing.

          Anyway the prices are very friendly on the budget. And it's close enough to my house that I took home a copy of their take out menu. Great find!

          1. re: Diana_mn

            Last time we were there, it was written in marker on a piece of paper taped to the wall. It could be that they aren't doing it anymore, or that the piece of paper fell down.

        2. A recent transplant, I live near Macalester and so Saigon is my go-to place. There bahn mi sandwichies, pho, and rice plates are consistently great flavor and value. Ngon is fancy, tasty but in a different price range. Mai Village does not have the refinement as it's a big place; I've only been to Hoa Bien once and it was delicious...I had a rice plate and the ban Cuan. I've gone to the little place on Grand for pho, and it was just okay. Bahn mi at Trung Nam not as good at Saigon. I have tried to go to Vina Plus, but somehow have missed their hours or something? I will try again...that spicy chicken sounds enticing.

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          Mai Village
          394 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55103

          Vina Plus
          1821 University Ave W, Saint Paul, MN 55104

          2 Replies
          1. re: stepawayfromthetable

            it's gone or being remodeled or something (vina Plus)

            1. re: pmikulay

              Vina Plus closed. They filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy last June.

              I would like to add to the list of restaurants, though, Asian Deli over on Western near University (388 Western). I've been there three times since it was mentioned here on CH ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/744369) and it has lived up to the billing every time.

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              Asian Deli
              388 Western Ave N, St Paul, MN 55103

          2. Jasmine Deli, on 25th and Nicollet, is one of my mainstays. Cheap, huge portions, and super friendly staff. Their cơm tấm, also known as broken rice, is phenomenal. Share it with a friend, and get a bahn mi each - there's really nothing better for the price!

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            Jasmine Deli
            2532 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

            1. We finally visited Vina in Richfield last night. It was one of those decisions where we weren't really in the mood for anything particular and couldn't make up our minds. We've driven past Vina thousands of times and never gone in until now...and I'm ashamed.

              Vina was one of the best Asian restaurants that I've been to in a while. Forgive my lack of specificity, since it is Vietnamese, but when I see Kung Pao chicken and spicy beef I lump it in with all of the general category of Asian restaurants. However, the food was great and seemed so light, not like a typical heavy grease taste. We were in and out quickly, it only cost just over $20 for two of us (most meals are $9.50-$11), and it was really good.

              We'll be going back.

              1 Reply
              1. re: GutGrease

                I live blocks from Vina in Richfield, and beg you to next time drive farther and try Quang, or Pho Tau Bay, or Pho79.. please?! For two of you the meal would be $15.. and you'd be much more satisfied. I really want to love my neighbor, but I cannot.

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                Pho Tau Bay
                2837 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

              2. Let us know if you find Ca Kho To - or Clay Pot Fish. One of the standards of Vietnamese cooking.

                I've actually always been pretty disappointing with Vietnamese restaurants in the Twin Cities. We get great pho and banh mi, but none of the real exciting dishes of the cuisine. It seems like we get a couple examples of good street food here, but not even that much variety.

                I'd love to be proven wrong, but have yet to see great Vietnamese here.

                3 Replies
                1. re: misterpatrick

                  You wanna find ca kho to, go to Phuong Trang in Brooklyn Park.

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                  Phuong Trang
                  8072 Brooklyn Blvd, Brooklyn Park, MN 55445

                  1. re: queue4ever

                    Thanks queue4ever, I'll definitely check Phuong Trang out!

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                    Phuong Trang
                    8072 Brooklyn Blvd, Brooklyn Park, MN 55445

                  2. re: misterpatrick

                    Hoa Bien has that, as well as a broad array of non-standard dishes. I work right by it, so I'll give it a try next time I'm there.

                  3. Another place worth recommending is Pho 79 in St. Paul on Energy Park Drive and Raymond. Great pho, great egg rolls, the wings are awesome and there's a spicy chicken/rice dish (the name escapes me) that's good too. I really wish there was a menu online for this place. Great lunch specials and very friendly ownership. This place is awesome.

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                    Pho 79 Restaurant
                    2233 Energy Park Dr Ste 800, Saint Paul, MN 55108

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: ike.

                      Your wish is my command.

                      http://www.pho79mpls.com/Pho79%20Menu...

                      I'm somewhat concerned about their topping the Strib's list of Health violations (by a considerable margin, no less). This sort of piece doesn't always reflect the sanitary conditions, and the St. Paul location might be different, but I'd like to see them pass re-inspection.

                      1. re: kevin47

                        This web site is for the Pho 79 on Eat Street (Nicollet Ave) in S. Minneapolis - not the one in St. Paul that Ike likes. These two places have different menus and, as far as I know, different owners.

                        Likewise, the health violations highlighted in the Strib were for the Mpls restaurant, not the St. Paul one.

                        Anne

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                        Pho 79 Restaurant
                        2529 Nicollet Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404

                        1. re: AnneInMpls

                          Unaware about the different owners. Seems like the Strib could have parsed that out.

                      2. re: ike.

                        Yes, Pho 79 on Energy Park Drive is great. If you are driving down 280 at lunch time be aware that you are just minutes away from some very good Vietnamese food. I like their pho better than what I have had at Quangs and Saigon. Consistently very good as are their noodle salads and grilled pork & rice dishes. Anything fried is done really well too. We (my family) are there about every other saturday for lunch.

                        Dale

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                        Pho 79 Restaurant
                        2233 Energy Park Dr Ste 800, Saint Paul, MN 55108