For Eater: Where to Eat Vietnamese Food in Seattle

Ben Thanh's pork intestines with pickled lettuce

Ben Thanh’s pork intestines with pickled lettuce

Vietnamese food in Seattle is marked by ubiquitous pho restaurants and banh mi sandwich shops all around the city. But beyond pho, there are many more types of Vietnamese soup noodles to explore and enjoy. Then there are all of the dry noodle dishes, plus plates of rice — whole grain or broken.

And as Anthony Bourdain discovered, Vietnamese preparations of various beasts, if you know where to go. Eater helps make that happen, presenting 11 favorite places featuring the food of Vietnam.

1. Ba Bar

This is the place to fork over a few extra dollars for the finest bowl of pho in town, but Ba Bar’s menu goes well beyond beef noodle soup, making this an idyllic spot at all hours of the day and night. There’s Vietnamese coffee with pastries in the morning (this was the home of one of Seattle’s first “cronuts”), along with rotisserie meats and rice vermicelli or broken rice in the evening. Ba Bar’s got a street food feel all day long, extending to 2am nightly and 4am on weekends.

2. Ben Thanh Restaurant

Head south of downtown on Rainier, and just past MLK is the cozy Ben Thanh restaurant where you’ll get treated like family for some home-style cooking. Among the highlights here are catfish clay pots and goat hot pots. Ben Thanh is a dependable place for the types of dishes that go well with beer, like beef salad with fermented anchovy sauce and pork intestines stir-fried with pickled lettuce.

Ben Thanh's rare beef salad with water spinach

Ben Thanh’s rare beef salad with water spinach

Baby clams with lemongrass, onion, mint, and peanuts (served with crispy sesame rice "paper") at Ben Thanh

Baby clams with lemongrass, onion, mint, and peanuts (served with crispy sesame rice “paper”) at Ben Thanh

3. Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant

While there’s a newer Belltown location, Eater is partial to the original International District restaurant for its comfortable atmosphere and friendly service. You can make a flavorful and fulfilling meal from the fresh spring rolls, banh xeo (Vietnamese savory crepe, served with lots of herbs,) and lotus root salad — and that’s before exploring all of the rice and noodles dishes on the menu.

4. Hoang Lan

At the south end of the Vietnamese “strip” along Martin Luther King at the Othello Station light-rail stop, this humble hole-in-the-wall has a small number of tables waiting, a television typically blaring, and an owner likely whistling or singing. The sign outside says Bun Bo Hue, which is easily mistaken as the name of the restaurant, as it’s the signature dish and the one to get, inclusive of its gelatinous pork knuckle and earthy pork blood cakes.

5. Huong Binh Vietnamese Cuisine

This standout in a strip mall at 12th and Jackson hits the mark in its intersection of authenticity, quality, and value. The grilled pork, perfectly caramelized, is a specialty, particularly as part of banh hoi thit nuong, where pork skewers accompany intricate bundles of thin rice noodles garnished with ground shrimp and scallion. The intriguing menu expands on weekends, when specials include duck noodle soup as well as congee served with blood sausage, pork tongue, liver, and ear.

6. Hue Ky Mi Gia

Also at the 12th and Jackson strip mall, step inside Hue Ky Mi Gia and you’ll immediately notice everyone enjoying fried butter chicken wings; crusted with garlic, green onion, chili, and salt, they’re delicious to eat as-is, or dipped in the tangy, sweet chile sauce that’s served on the side. The wings are the perfect appetizer ahead of one of the many noodle dishes on the menu, including egg or rice noodle soups, chow mein and chow fun dishes, and stir-fried vermicelli plates.

7. Monsoon

If you’re looking for the most upscale Vietnamese experience Seattle (and Bellevue) offers, look no further than Eric and Sophie Banh’s Monsoon. Using finer ingredients sourced locally when possible, Monsoon blends traditional Vietnamese cuisine with Pacific Northwest innovation for food with fine dining flair. Drunken chicken, catfish clay pot, and banana cake (for dessert) are among the popular dishes, and watch for special feasting opportunities to enjoy Dungeness crab.

8. Pho So 1

In a city full of pho, Pho So 1 puts the word right in its name and succeeds in making the beef noodle soup shine. Eater recommends #20 for the widest variety of meat (rare beef, well-done flank, fatty flank, tendon, and tripe), with the option of adding meatballs for an extra dollar. The bun bo hue is also worth a try.

9. Rainier BBQ & Restaurant

Ever since Anthony Bourdain made a stop here for an episode of “The Layover,” Rainier BBQ has been known for its safari-like suppers that include exotic meats like cobra, deer, and frog. You’ll find these dishes on a special menu you might have to request to receive. Those meats are well worth exploring, but don’t overlook the regular menu with more “standard” fare. One recommendation is hu tieu nam vang, which is a glass noodle soup that comes with ground pork, BBQ pork, shrimp, intestines, quail eggs, cilantro, chives, green onion, squid, fishcakes, and celery.

10. Saigon Vietnam Deli

When you’re at the intersection of 12th and Jackson in Little Saigon, you’re a stone’s throw from at least a dozen delis serving banh mi sandwiches. There are many good ones, but Eater recommends Saigon Vietnam Deli. Of all the sandwich choices, get the $3 BBQ pork, and say yes when asked if you want “spicy” via jalapenos. The “lunch boxes” of two entrees and a ton of rice are also a bargain at $6, with beef stew, stuffed bittermelon, and coconut chicken among the top picks.

11. Tamarind Tree

The toughest part of going to Tamarind Tree is the terrorizing parking lot. Find a spot, enter, and find sanctuary inside a peaceful dining room (or even the oddly serene outdoor dining area) and an extensive menu of Vietnamese food in a slightly upscale atmosphere. “Baby clams rice cracker” features a large portion of little herb-seasoned, spicy clams served with a black sesame rice cracker and fresh pineapple anchovy sauce, while the steamed prawn coconut rice cake comes with daikon, jicama, and onion with mixed herb fish sauce.

Originally published on Eater Seattle 12/1/14. Ben Thanh, first introduced to my blog in this post, has since closed. Search my site for photos from the other restaurants listed here.