When Vietnamese immigrants began arriving in the United States en masse after the war ended in 1975, they ended up in places like New Orleans, Orlando, San Jose, and Orange County, CA. It’s no surprise that these cities are some of the best places to eat Vietnamese food in the country.
New York City has never been a mecca for great Vietnamese cuisine. The few restaurants that existed, mostly around Chinatown in Manhattan, were run by Hoa, or ethnic Chinese-Vietnamese, immigrants. The food was fine for a temporary pho fix, but it didn’t send off culinary fireworks on the palate, either.
But then around the middle of the last decade, something interesting happened. Inspiring Vietnamese restaurants began firing up their pho-boiling burners, churning out (finally) excellent Vietnamese fare in New York City. And now, several years later, the city is sprinkled with great restaurants representing the cuisine of this fascinating Southeast Asian country.
Here are the 12 best Vietnamese restaurants in NYC.
Banh Vietnamese Shop House
Located on the Upper West Side, Banh started as a pop-up in 2020. And as the food-loving public got word of a new and great Vietnamese place serving up rich, flavorful pho on the Upper West Side, the lines outside of the restaurant started to form. And the line never really ended.
Now Banh is a permanent fixture, and one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in NYC. And thank the pho gods for that. In addition to pho and bun cha, a Hanoi favorite that is unfortunately far from a staple at Vietnamese restaurants across the United States, Banh also serves banh chung chien, a deep-fried rice cake filled with pork that is also a rarity to find outside of Vietnam.
The banh mi sandwich might be the best sandwich on the planet. And the best banh mi sandwich in New York is probably at this diminutive, no-frills spot in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
It’s jam-packed with veggies, crammed with porky goodness, and smeared with buttery silky pâté. But what really seals the deal—and this is the secret to any good banh mi—is the bread. They get their baguettes from Neri’s Bakery in Port Chester in Westchester County. Located on Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street.
Located in Williamsburg, Bolero is helmed by chef Matt Le Khac who relies on his deep knowledge of lost Vietnamese culinary traditions and Southeast Asian herbs to inform what he does in the kitchen. Le Khac is talented at taking traditional (and lesser-known) Vietnamese dishes and putting his own modern spin on them.
Expect to find a few familiar names on the menu—pho, shaking beef, banh xeo—and a few things you’ve never heard of unless you’ve eaten your way through Vietnam.
This East Williamsburg spot helped set off the boom of excellent modern Vietnamese restaurants in NYC. Eleven Madison Park alum Jimmy Tu is the man behind Bunker and he’s serving up the food he was raised on, mostly dishes that hail from in and around Ho Chi Minh City, the metropolis locals still call Saigon.
Start with a crepe-like, smoke-mussel-and-bacon-stuffed banh xeo and then move on to entrees like the luscious pork-belly-and-pâté crammed banh mi. One nod to the north is the cha ca, a dill-spiked fish dish that originated in Hanoi. (They use salmon instead of the genus of catfish that’s used in Hanoi.) The chicken in the pho ga is also nice, as the poultry is smoked, adding a unique taste to the flavor strata.
Di An Di
From the people who brought you An Choi, the influential and erstwhile Vietnamese spot on the Lower East Side, Di An Di serves up traditional fare plus Vietnamese dishes with a twist. And refreshingly, Di An Di does not shy away from Hanoi dishes, as there are few bowls of Hanoi-style pho on offer, as well as the sizzling fish dish cha ca la Vong.
Also turning up on the menu sometimes are fun and more adventurous offerings such as the delicious sweet-and-spicy crispy pig tails and the sizzling lamb belly.
Em Vietnamese Bistro
Opened in late spring 2021, this eatery is the sequel to the original in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. But unlike most sequels, this Dumbo eatery, just steps from the Brooklyn Bridge, may be better than the original, and is one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in NYC. The Vietnamese-American couple who run the place have tried to create an atmosphere of what it would be like to eat out on a Saturday night in Saigon.
The menu differs from the original location in that there’s more of an emphasis on shellfish here. Pro tip: go for dinner or weekend lunch to get the expanded menu. Then you’ll get access to the chao, a scallop-spiked rice porridge similar to the Chinese congee, as well as garlic-butter clams, mussels in a coconut-lemongrass sauce, and seafood fried rice.
Named for the way the erstwhile owner’s father said “Français” (French for “French”), this Bushwick restaurant closed and reopened with a new (former Blue Hill at Stone Barns) chef-owner in summer 2021, as well as a new and revamped menu. The original was very good; the new incarnation is great—and one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in NYC.
The menu changes with the season, but there are a few constants, including the supremely excellent tender crispy duck necks and “Dad’s Egg Rolls,” a holdover from the previous owner-chef: Berkshire-pork-and-wood-ear-mushroom-stuffed fried rolls with a chili-loaded fish sauce for dipping.
When the acclaimed Hanoi House opened on St. Marks Place near Avenue A in the East Village in 2017, it was something of a revelation to New Yorkers. There are not many restaurants in New York, and even the entire United States, that are solely focused on the cuisine of the Vietnamese capital. That’s because most Vietnamese immigrants since 1975 have hailed from the south.
The pho here is the star of the show. As is the proclivity in the north, the broth is deep, rich, refreshingly lacking in sweetness, and oh-so satisfying (especially with the side of pickled garlic). Other standouts include the shredded pig ear salad and the bun cha, a Hanoi staple that involves fried pork rolls, pork patties, and vermicelli noodles all rolled up in lettuce (by the diner), dipped in fish sauce, and enjoyed.
This Williamsburg spot, located at 182 S. 2nd Street and Driggs Avenue, is an excellent, relatively off-the-radar restaurant a few blocks from the Williamsburg Bridge. The pâté-laden banh mi here is terrific. So is the street-style Saigon pork noodle soup, laden with caramelized pork shoulder.
The best dish, though, might be the Quang Nam chicken noodle soup, which hails from the region of the same name in central Vietnam, especially in the towns of Da Nang and Hoi An. An aromatic chicken broth gives way to flavorful turmeric rice noodles, all of which is topped with peanuts and scallions.
Sai Gon Dep
Opened in late 2018 by chef John Nguyen, who was the opening chef at Hanoi House, this Murray Hill restaurant offers the usual array of Vietnamese staples: shaking beef, spring rolls, beef pho, grilled pork chop with broken rice. But the real focus here is on pho ga, or chicken pho. Nguyen, who hails from Saigon, does an admirable job with pho ga, the fowl almost falling apart when the chopsticks touch it.
This Lower East Side spot deviates a bit from the usual suspects, offering up a menu that is loaded with Southeast Asian deliciousness. Start with the pork-belly-loaded fried sticky rice cakes and/or the tender lemongrass-spiked spareribs.
Then move on to one of the excellent mains, including the bun rieu, a Saigon tomato-and-crab soup, the legendary fried chicken sandwich, or the very good banh mi burger, which is topped with pâté, cilantro, and jalapeños.
The menu at this elegant East Village eatery is separated into regions: Street food, Saigon, Hue, and Hanoi. And each section has its hits. Which is pretty much everything on offer.
In the Hue portion of the menu, nearly everything is a delight to the palate as dishes like banh it ram (crispy mochi dumplings) and banh khot (crispy turmeric rice cakes) haven’t crossed the ocean and landed on many restaurant menus in North America.
On the “street food” side of things, the crispy sweet potato fritters and the pho short rib grilled cheese sandwich are two classic dishes that should become obligatory for any first-time diner to Van Da.
David Farley is a West Village-based food and travel writer whose work appears regularly in the New York Times, National Geographic, BBC, and Food & Wine, among other publications. He’s the author of three books, including “An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church’s Strangest Relic in Italy’s Oddest Town,” which was made into a documentary by the National Geographic Channel. You can find Farley’s online homes here and here.