The Best Vietnamese Restaurants In NYC
photo credit: Adam Friedlander
There are few things that can improve a bad day like a piping hot bowl of phở, or a crispy bánh xèo right off the griddle. This is scientifically proven, and we will not be taking any further questions at this time. And though we’re super excited about NYC's thriving Vietnamese pop-up scene (see: Ha’s Đặc Biệt, Bé Bếp, and Ăn Xôi), when you need great bánh mì now, or want to celebrate a special occasion with a whole bird stuffed with chicken-fat rice, make a beeline to the following restaurants.
A meal at Mắm does require a little advance planning, but once you’re sitting on a bench inside this tiny room in Chinatown, or on a plastic stool on the sidewalk outside, it’s always worth it. Mắm may be small, and only open on certain days of the week, but the dishes here—like the signature bún đậu mắm tôm—are hearty, herbaceous, and memorable. You can pre-order the day's special to reserve a seat, and add a few appetizers once you’re at the restaurant. Check Hotplate for Mắm’s dish-of-the-week: Past highlights have included Vietnamese Cambodian noodle soup, Hanoi-style crab hot pot, and shore clam noodle soup.
Hanoi House serves the best summer rolls in NYC. The paper-thin wrappers holding in pork sausage patties and crunchy wonton bits are reason enough to get to this East Village spot, which is filled with students spending their weekly allowances. But they’re not the only reason. Others include shaking beef that tastes like it’s coated in maple syrup despite being as savory as the bone marrow it’s served with, and a braised beef bánh mì that you should dunk in its side of phở broth before every bite.
At this East Village neighborhood spot, 2010’s club bangers play and almost everyone slurps bowls of the "madame pho" with a $10 short rib add-on. It's the kind of casual place where you can bring friends to drink whiskey-based Vietnamese espresso martinis. But don't take that to mean you should split the namesake beefy soup with short rib, which has nice warming spices and emulates a Fred Flinstone wet dream. Get your own. Then throw in some Vietnamese classics to share with your group, like the crispy chả giò stuffed with tail-on shrimp, pork, and crab, and you'll be in for a fun night out.
The baguette that Thanh Da uses for its bánh mì is so good you could fill it with any old cold cuts, and it’d be a pretty good sandwich. Of course, this Sunset Park spot goes a different direction with their fillings, using creamy pâté, a thick stack of chả lụa, and a bunch of crumbled BBQ pork. The result is one of the best sandwiches in the city. Get at least one, as well as the bún thịt nướng that comes with thin strips of intensely rich grilled pork over vermicelli.
A short walk from Thanh Da in Sunset Park, you’ll find another bánh mì deserving of a Times Square ad campaign. The one at Ba Xuyen makes the leap to superstar-status thanks to what’s between the bread—layers of pâté, ham, head cheese, pork roll, and pork teriyaki, all dripping with globs of mayo. For around $10, you can get the bánh mì plus a side of shrimp and pork-heavy spring rolls, all of which you should eat on a bench overlooking Manhattan in Sunset Park a block away. It’s cash only, so plan accordingly.
Have you ever gnawed on a confit duck neck in a dining room resembling someone’s stylish mid-century modern home, while “Stay Fly” by Three 6 Mafia played over the speakers? If the answer is no (and we’d be surprised if you said yes), you haven’t had dinner at Falansai in Bushwick yet. This restaurant opened in 2013, and the food has since evolved into a reflection of the current chef’s Vietnamese-Mexican heritage, with guacamole sitting comfortably alongside sesame rice crackers. Falansai offers a family-style prix fixe for $88 per person, and it's well-suited to big date nights, birthdays and other group dinners, but we'd recommend ordering a la carte if you want to try more things.
The menu at this LES spot changes with the seasons—and you’ll inevitably get attached to the food here, like a serial monogamist navigating a casual fling. The bún chả is always available though, and it’s the best version we’ve had in the borough. To order it is to engage in group therapy with rice noodles, fried crab and pork rolls, more assorted pork, herbs, and aromatics. Look out for specials, like the whole fried Cornish hen, stuffed with chicken-fat rice, as well as food-related events, which take place regularly in this long room with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a Yoda statue perched on a shelf.
Bánh was one of the best things to happen to the Upper West Side in the last few years, and the wait at prime dinnertime is proof. That’s why we love a weekend lunch here, maybe after a morning in Central Park, when the line for a table isn’t long. Get the BBQ pork bánh mì, or a very star anise- and cinnamon-forward bowl of phở if you need full body warmth after a late fall park walk. The best part is watching the bustle of the kitchen, which runs the length of the room, while waiting for your food to arrive.
Ordering nothing but phở at this breezy Greenpoint spot is like only listening to pre-psychedelics Beatles. You’ll be happy enough, but oblivious to the fact that it can get even better. That’s why alongside the beef phở with wok-seared brisket, or the lighter version with poached chicken, your order should include a few more things, like crunchy chả giò packed with pork and shrimp. This pastel-colored restaurant has been packed since it opened in 2018, and while you could come here for a cocktail and soup by yourself at the bar, the best way to experience Di An Di is with a few people and a large appetite.
You might argue that short rib fried rice is inevitably good. We’ll be the first to admit, it tends to have a pretty high floor. But after you taste the version at District Saigon, an effortlessly elegant neighborhood spot in Astoria, you’ll see it can also have a really high ceiling. The caramelized beef, juicy tomatoes, and chili-garlic sauce balance each other perfectly, much like the fatty brisket, bright cilantro, and combination of sriracha and hoisin that come with District's steak phở.
Unlike professional soccer, there are no ties in bánh mì excellence, so we're declaring #4 the best sandwich here. Inside the untoasted baguette is chả lụa, big chunks of crunchy cucumber, pickled carrots, and optional jalapeños. There are no tables inside this counter-service spot in Chinatown, just a line to order, and a line to wait for your order—amongst other people who understand the importance of a well-made sandwich. And though #4 is the winner, the #1 sandwich with sweet BBQ pork is a close runner-up.
The menu at this Elmhurst spot ranges from Taiwanese popcorn chicken to ramen with Lan Zhou-style noodles, and while we’d never discourage you from getting a bánh mì with spam and egg, you certainly won’t be disappointed if you keep it simple. The classic bánh mì here is the best you’ll find in Elmhurst. It’s made with a baguette that would start flaking in a strong breeze, as well as crumbled, caramelized pork that perfectly balances the buttery chả lụan and vinegary carrots.
The 14-hour smoked brisket at Lucy’s in Bushwick has a shield of peppery bark, which sits on top of juicy, smoky meat that coats your mouth after each bite. That’s true whether you get the bánh mì or the phở, both of which are among our favorite versions in the city. The small counter-service spot has a few tables inside, or you can take your order to go and be alone with your brisket in the privacy of your own apartment. Lucy’s Vietnamese also has three other locations around Brooklyn.
This large spot in Chinatown is casual enough for a solo lunch or a spur-of-the-moment group meal. The 150-plus dishes on the menu might seem overwhelming, but just know that no matter what you order, you’re going to have a good meal. And if you order the grilled pork bánh mì, you’re going to have a great one. And then there's also the crunchy chả giò filled with ground pork that’s somehow as rich and intense as pâté, and the bun cha, which comes with more fantastic pork and sticky vermicelli that soaks up all the broth. The best part: we’ve never had to wait for a table here.