There are a number of unique dishes served at Vietnamese restaurants that will leave you craving another visit. The best known and arguably most widely interpreted dish is the classic pho, a rice noodle dish. Typically served with a beef broth and an assortment of veggies such as fresh basil and bean sprouts, pho is both filling and potentially health-conscious, depending on how it’s made.
Of course, noodle soup isn’t the only amazing food that comes from Vietnam. Other incredibly flavorful options when dining at a Vietnamese or fusion restaurant include fried ride, stir-fried noodles, bun noodles, a rice noodle vermicelli served chilled with an assortment of toppings and the incredible sandwich named for its bread, the banh mi. Served with pickled carrots and daikon radishes and topped with fresh veggies and cilantro, this sandwich is a must-try.
Fresh steamed rice cakes with added shrimp, green onion, fried shallot, chilli peppers and crispy pork skin! Dip away of spicy fish sauce. (Banh beo) Photo: @davidthefoodie #repost #vietnamesefood #vietnam #vietnamese #vietfood #vietkitchen #viet #asia #asian #asianfood #food #foodlover #foodgasm #foodporn #foodpics #foodie #foodstagram #delicious #good #yum #yummy
There is a host of unique and mouthwatering flavors often incorporated into Vietnamese dishes. Among the most popular are fish sauce, rice vinegar, lemongrass, sweet basil, ginger, straw mushrooms and even curries. If you enjoy stir-fried dishes, noodles, soups, or even a good sandwich, chances are that you’ll find something to obsess about at one of the amazing Vietnamese eateries around San Diego.
We’ve curated a list of five must-visit establishments with authentic flavors, reasonable prices and incredible menus. Many Vietnamese places are vegetarian-friendly. Between the variety of foods and the incredible drinks, each of these four pho restaurants will having you coming back for more.
Saigon on 5th
If you’re in Hilllcrest and craving some late night deliciousness, you should take a trip to Saigon on Fifth. Since they’re open until 3 a.m., you can even stop in after your favorite local bar closes up for the night. Second shift workers can also rely on Saigon on Fifth for an amazing, flavorful dinner when they’re craving noodles or spring rolls. While they don’t offer delivery, you can call ahead for pick-up or make a reservation so that you know there’s a table waiting for you.
Their menu is impressive, and they have a full bar, as well as outside seating. Saigon Love Boat is a seafood combination mixed with lemon leaf and other herbs before getting wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. They also offer roasted duck served in curry or orange sauce, soft shell crab, clay pot fish, bun, pho and even baked eggplant, if you have a vegetarian in your group.
If you want something a little more special, consider ordering one of their table specialties. These dishes are prepared right at your table. That means you get dinner and show for one reasonable price. These dishes include Saigon fondue, where you can pick your protein and noodles or even Vietnamese crepes, made with a traditional rice batter.
Pho Fifth Avenue
Another amazing establishment in Hillcrest, Pho Fifth Avenue specializes in variations on the amazing pho noodle soup. You can order just about any kind of pho, from one made with filet mignon to a special combination with rare beef, flank steak, tendon, tripe and fatty brisket. Other versions include beef meatballs, chicken noodle soup or even shrimp cooked in beef or chicken broth.
Looking for something other than noodles or soup? Try their shaking beef, a dish of seared beef served with either fried or steamed rice. There are also dishes that include char-grilled pork sausage rolls wrapped in rice paper. There is a full section of vegetarian dishes, ranging from spring rolls or a vegetarian sandwich to stir-fry and curry with tofu. There are also several different kinds of banh mi on the menu, including beef, chicken and pork.
There’s a location by SDSU at 5157 College Ave., open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and both locations offer take out ordering. Delivery may be available through third-party delivery services. They have group seating and a casual, family-friendly atmosphere that make them a great weeknight options for dinner or lunch. You can order a beer or wine to go with your meal if you’re eating in.
PB Pho & Grill
Website: PB Pho & Grill
Location: 1004 Garnet Avenue (map)
Hours: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Tuesday: 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. to midnight
If you’re looking for affordable and flavorful food in Pacific Beach, PB Pho & Grill should be your first stop! They’ve only been open for little more than a year, but they’ve already made quite a name for themselves with great prices and impeccable décor.
While you’re waiting for your noodles or your sandwich, you can enjoy spring rolls in a variety of flavors, including tofu, chicken, grilled pork and shrimp. You can have your choice of protein when you order fried rice or rice vermicelli, including shrimp, chicken or tofu and vegetable vegetarian options.
In addition to traditional beef broth pho, you can order chicken noddle soup or seafood noodle soup with shrimp. If you want something a little more substantial, their BBQ beef has started to garner a local following. The only thing bigger than the portion sizes are the flavors.
While they don’t serve alcohol, they do have great drinks, including fresh coconut, espresso, Thai iced tea with or without Boba and even fresh lemonade. PB Pho & Grill offers seating for groups and consider themselves family-friendly, with a kid’s menu that includes whole meals for only $7.99 for kids 12 and under. You can even bring your furry family member to their outdoor seating, which is dog-friendly.
The Food Shop Asian Grab and Go
Website: The Food Shop Asian Grab and Go
Location: 465 5th Avenue (map)
Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m – 3 p.m; 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.
Sunday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
People who live or work near Gaslamp should make it a priority to stop into The Food Shop Asian Grab and Go. Although their name and location is unassuming, their dishes are absolutely memorable! This little hole in the wall eatery is a side project of Sovereign Kitchen and offers quick and affordable dishes for the diner on the go! There is also seating available if you’d like to stay for a while and savor your meal.
Their menu boasts most of the staples you’d expect, such as pho and a variety of banh mi sandwiches. They are willing to do unusual things with their banh mi sandwiches, like topping them with fried eggs or with BBQ chicken. You can also order an assortment of hand-made rolls in rice paper, stuffed to the seams with veggies and meat. They offer a range of bowls, which include protein, noodles or rice and veggies.
While there isn’t any alcohol, you can order sweet Vietnamese coffee, perhaps with a shot of flavoring. They have indoor and outdoor seating, and the outdoor space is dog-friendly. You can’t make a reservation, but you can call in a take-out order or have the food delivered if you’re nearby.
Pho Cow Cali
We have been to Pho Cow more times than we care to admit, and it only get better with age. This unpretentious gem tucked away in the back of a strip mall off Mira Mesa Blvd serves up heaps on delicious authentic Vietnamese cuisine at a lightning pace. Seriously, we’ve never had food come to our table so quickly after ordering, or witnessed table cleaning as fast as the pros they currently employ. It’s as entertaining as a floor show but without the admission cost!
The food is classic Vietnamese comfort. Their numbered and vast menu has everything you could be craving, from soups to stir frys. Our recommendation is to go with a bowl (make it a large!) of pho with your choice of meat, or a noodle bowl covered in charbroiled pork and shrimp. Order an appetizer of egg rolls if you’re feeling particularly hungry.
Pho Cow Cali offers special chicken curry, which we hear is unreal, but only on Friday evenings and only until it runs out. If you’re able to head there on a Friday and are able to snag an order before they run out consider yourself lucky. Our many failed attempts to get a plate are a testament to its deliciousness, or at least that’s the only conclusion we can make.
So there you have it! Our picks for the top Vietnamese cuisine in San Diego. Let us know in the comments if we missed your favorite spot. We’d love to try it out and report on it in a future article!