Born in the humble structure across the parking lot (see "The Next Generation Puts Its Spin on Iconic C–ID Businesses"), Seattle’s first pho shop has grown into this tropically styled space, whose broad windows sport the steam of all those bowls of rich pho served within. The menu grew as well, to include cocktails, Viet-tinged snacks like fries in lemongrass dipping sauce, and new soup adventures like the turmeric noodles and Instagram-ready short rib pho.
Sure, the bathtub-size “super bowls” of pho are a fun novelty, but the real draw here is housemade rice noodles, soaked, ground, and fashioned over several laborious days. A visit to this yellow-walled spot just off Jackson doubles as an opportunity to explore Vietnamese soups less prevalent in America, like spicy bun bo hue or comforting hu tieu.
No seating, no frills, but, yes, plentiful flavorful and portable food resides within this counter-service spot. Those in the know come for the affordable $4-ish banh mi sandwiches—some of the best in the city on fresh-made baguette—filled with grilled tofu and veggies, or three kinds of ham. Others go for snacks packaged in house: shrimp spring rolls, chicken with rice, or minced pork inside steamed rice inside banana leaf.
Tofu can absolutely be destination worthy, as evidenced by the lemongrass, chive, and other varieties made fresh and sold here by the pound. Once just a tofu production company, Thanh Son branched out with an unexpectedly glittering deli space on King, with solid banh mi and a build-your-own che (beverage by way of dessert) menu that’s bonkers fun.
Look beyond the vigorously pastel walls and awkward layout to that glorious buffet, an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of curry, tofu, braised jackfruit, eggplant, and assorted "meat" that’s the stuff of meatless dreams. In the dining room, grateful vegans hover over tangy noodle soups, but the banh mi with faux crispy pork skin on the takeout menu counts plenty of carnivores in its fan base.
From pate chaud and baked or steamed hum bao from the bakery case to the pate, ham, meatballs, perfect shatter-prone baguettes, even the mayo that populate the sandwich menu, this stylish banh mi shop from the family behind Hue Ky Mi Gia makes just about everything in house. Even more impressive: Sandwiches are still $4.50 each.
When you see elderly Vietnamese ladies chatting at a four-top whilst assembling their lettuce-wrapped bundles of banh hoi rice noodles for lunch, you know you’re right where you should be—that is, a restaurant tucked in a busy plaza on Jackson. Owner Lien Dang’s served cuisine of the old royal capital of Hue for 27 years, from spicy bun bo hue beef noodle soup to banh beo, steamed rice cakes showered with ground shrimp and scallions.
The vast menu’s organized by mollusk—sea snails, winkle snails, Canadian yellow spotted snails. Which is to say: This bamboo-trimmed room is serious about seafood. The namesake bun oc (rice noodle soup with snails that hails from Hanoi) has a complex, briny broth but even nongastropodal standards like lotus root salad and fish cakes draped across balls of crispy rice are standouts. Especially when the house green chili sauce is involved.
In 2004, Tam Nguyen expanded the city’s definition of Little Saigon with a deeply atmospheric dining room, serving an enormous menu of carefully prepared Vietnamese regional staples, at prices not too far north of what you’d find in the neighborhood’s nearby fluorescent-lit counterparts. Fifteen years later, very little has changed; these days, it’s also a rare destination for a proper bo 7 mon, Vietnam’s traditional seven courses of beef.
The fiery flavors of China’s Sichuan province are in short supply compared with the C–ID’s relative abundance of Taiwanese and Cantonese restaurants. Thank goodness for this stalwart, part of the array of Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants within the Ding How Center. The second-story dining room is reliable in matters of deeply spiced cumin lamb, chili-laced chongqing chicken, lip-numbing hot pots, and anything that involves hand-shaved noodles.
The gold script on the front of the menus proclaim this cozy spot a “Chinese Noodle House.” But somewhere along the way, word got out about the wings, whose arrival at pretty much every table is preceded by a wave of buttery garlic aroma. Still, don’t overlook the noodles. The braised duck noodle soup is another favorite off the broad menu, but the house chicken broth gets along just as well with seafood or barbecue pork.
“Authentic” is a tricky word when it comes to food, but neighborhood denizens deploy it constantly when raving about the duck noodle soup with its lively herbaceous broth, served in this faux-bricked dining room. Or the com tam, scoops of broken rice topped with your choice of flavor-packed proteins, like deep fried tofu, sugar cane shrimp, or a broad cut of smoky grilled pork divvied up tableside with a pair of scissors.
It’s dessert that compels couples and friend trios to descend upon this Taiwanese-style cafe’s handful of tables. Namely the honey toast—a cube of soft white bread, roughly the size of a tissue box, hollowed out to accommodate a Willy Wonkian cornucopia of fruit, ice cream, chocolate drizzles, and various cookies. Fend off sugar overload with a bowl of zha jiang mian—noodles with megasavory fermented soybean paste—from the better-than-average savory menu.