When traveling the country and trying to avoid the Cheesecake Factories, Cracker Barrels and Claim Jumpers that clog the arteries, we get excited whenever we see a Martin Luther King street exit. The same can be said for exit 157 off I-5 in Seattle, where, just to the north, you’ll find a diversity of delicious restaurants.
But things are changing there before our eyes. We headed down recently for some bahn beo chen at Huong Giang – only to find the restaurant out of business. (We hope to report on these little lovelies sometime in the future.) No fear. We crossed the street, walked to Hoang Lan (7119 MLK Way South), and were instantly transported into another world. In numerous visits, we’ve yet to see another Caucasian, or even a non-Vietnamese person. With the ubiquitous television in the corner showing Vietnamese music and fashion shows, this noodle-shop epitomizes the whole hole-in-the-wall feel we adore.
But this is not your ubiquitous pho joint. Instead, you’ll find a variety of interesting soups, including some seafood selections. Going against our server’s recommendation, we’ve sampled a “special noodle” soup (first picture) that he said non-Vietnamese simply don’t like (we did). And we especially enjoy the bun bo hue (second picture), featuring rice noodles (spaghetti-like) in beef broth with braised beef, pork blood cake (texture and taste alert!), pork liver and a pork hock (our ability to eat these pork parts astonished our server). To this you add the accompanying bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, sliced banana blossoms, cilantro, jalapeno and lime. Wonderfully warm for a winter’s day!
Will the launch of light rail mean boom or bust for restaurants like Hoang Lan, which have barely survived the construction phase? We don’t want to wait to see. There are vermicelli dishes, broken rice dishes, and more on Hoang Lan’s menu, which we hope to explore as much as possible – and as soon as possible.
Originally posted at Seattlest (where “we” = me) on December 17, 2007.