Say what you will about a loving embrace or a tumbler of brown liquor, but few things can improve a bad day like a piping hot bowl of phở, or a crispy bánh xèo right off the griddle. There are countless Vietnamese spots across NYC, but there are only a handful of places where the chả giò or bún chả alone not only make your day, but make you consider a change of zip code. Those are the 13 spots you’ll find on this guide. Here are the best Vietnamese restaurants in NYC.
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, 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 less than $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.
Ordering nothing but phở at this Greenpoint spot is like only listening to pre-psychedelics Beatles. You’ll be very happy, 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 but equally delicious version with poached chicken, your order should at least include crunchy chả giò packed with pork and shrimp, and slightly spicy garlic noodles with chopped clams.
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 District Saigon’s version in Astoria, you’ll see it can also have a really high ceiling. The caramelized beef, juicy tomatoes, and chili-garlic sauce all balance each other perfectly, much like the fatty brisket, bright cilantro, and combination of sriracha and hoisin that come with the steak phở.
If you didn’t get a chance to check out Bolero in the month or so that it was open before the shutdown, you’d be wise to get to this casual Williamsburg spot as soon as possible. They play ’60s Vietnamese radio hits under mosquito netted light fixtures, and offer an $18 shot and beer combo that comes with a boiled fertilized duck egg at tables right on Bedford Ave. The food, though, is anything but low-key. The chefs - who worked at very high-end restaurants like Blue Hill At Stone Barns and Benu in San Francisco - send out bánh xèo filled with duck prosciutto, bún bò huế with tofu skin torchon, and chicken phở with breast, liver, and young chicken eggs.
Unlike professional soccer, there are no ties in bánh mì excellence, so we’ll say that the #4 at this Chinatown spot is the best sandwich here. Inside the untoasted baguette is chả lụa, big chunks of crunchy cucumber, pickled carrots, and jalapeños (if you ask for it spicy). Each would border on too rich, vinegary, or spicy on its own, but they’re all portioned and organized in a way that makes for a nearly ideal sandwich. With all that said, the #1 with sweet BBQ pork should absolutely be part of your order as well.
The menu at this Elmhust 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 keeping it simple. The classic bánh mì - the best you’ll find in Elmhurst - is made with a baguette that would start flaking breadcrumbs with a strong breeze, as well as crumbled, caramelized pork that perfectly balances the buttery chả lụa and vinegary carrots.
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 as soon as possible. But they’re certainly 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 brisket bánh mì that you should dunk in its side of phở broth before every bite.
The 14-hour smoked brisket at Lucy’s 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. It’s hard to pinpoint where the juiciness of the meat ends and the hoisin, sriracha, and garlic aioli begin on the bánh mì. The brisket takes it to another level in the phở broth, which absorbs all the meat’s smokiness without losing the lightness of the vegetarian stock.
The 150+ dish menu at Thai Son might seem overwhelming, but 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. In the event you’re not convinced, then don’t even look at the menu, and just order the crunchy chả giò filled with ground pork that’s somehow as rich and intense as pâté, and the bun cha, which comes with sticky vermicelli that soaks up the broth, and similarly fantastic pork to what you’ll get in the bánh mì.
If there’s no such thing as too much pork in your world, order the Saigon bánh mì from Bunker in Bushwick. Inside the buttered, crunchy baguette are layers of Vietnamese pork loaf, roast pork, sausage, grilled bacon, and pâté. It’s absolutely delicious, but if it sounds like a bit much, then go with the pork and surf instead. Along with plenty of pork, you’ll get perfectly grilled shrimp, and textured vermicelli noodles that keep their shape even after a heavy dose of peanuts and nước chấm.
The back patio at Bricolage in Park Slope could have been a shooting location for Jurassic Park. It’s our favorite outdoor dining setup of any place on this guide, and it’s where you should eat crispy bánh xèo filled with pork and shrimp, followed by “unshaking beef,” a juicy, rare, perfectly seared slab of ribeye covered in lime-black pepper sauce.