Some Vietnamese spots excel at bánh mì, some excel at pho, and some might just excel at being close to your house. Fresh Bowl in North Austin does a lot of things, and does them all well. And part of the key to that is making everything, well, fresh.
The dining room here might look like your average neighborhood Vietnamese joint—with minimal frills and long rows of tables and booths. But it’s the little touches that set them apart. Bánh mì arrives on a freshly baked baguette that leaves a trail of crumbs. And the rice noodles are made in-house—something we don’t see very often. There’s also a pretty extensive menu of hot pots, rice dishes, and vermicelli bowls.
Fresh Bowl isn’t taking any shortcuts, and it certainly shows. Come here for a light lunch, or show up at dinner and go to town on apps, pho, bún bò Huế, and bánh mì. Fresh Bowl might not be our single favorite spot for any item, but it certainly comes close. And if it happens to be close to your house, well, consider yourself very lucky.
This is one of the only spots in town that makes its own rice noodles for pho. Thin and flat, the noodles are on the soft side, but still retain a good bit of texture. Warm and rich, the broth has hints of anise and clove. There’s a mild sweetness that’s just as easy to drink by the spoonful, as it is to find yourself with an upturned bowl.
The bánh mì here comes out on a housemade baguette. It arrives toasted and puffy, resulting in an audible crunch and a small shower of crumbs after each bite, and there are enough pickled veggies and cilantro to brighten up the savory fillings it all holds. While you can get a few different bánh mì here, we like the house special—made with a tiny mountain of cold cuts and roasted meats, plus a very generous spread of pâté and mayo.
The wings are tossed in minced garlic and a sweet, sticky fish sauce dressing that will immediately cling to your fingers in the best way possible. They’re cooked well, but the skin can get a bit chewy. Still, we have trouble not ordering them every time.