Whether you’re looking for a fine dining restaurant or a tiny-hole-in-the-wall, New York City is a melting pot of cultures and flavors, and there’s truly something for everyone here. However, one place the city falls short of is its Vietnamese food scene.
Once the war ended in 1975, a lot of people migrating to the US from Vietnam settled in places like Orlando, San Jose, and Orange County, CA. While New York isn’t renowned for its Vietnamese food (yet), things are quickly changing. People are getting a taste of the spicy, sweet, and tangy flavors of my native country, and it’s exciting to see new restaurants pop up.
Here are a couple of Viet restaurants I absolutely adore. From comforting classics to modern renditions, here’s my pick of the five best Vietnamese restaurants in New York City!
1. Saigon Social
Headed by the incredible chef Helen Nguyen, Saigon Social is a gem on the Lower East Side and is easily one of my all time favorite restaurants. Saigon Social first opened its doors in 2020, and since then it has established itself as a Vietnamese food institution. Their menu is inspired by the food Helen Nguyen ate growing up as a child, and their casual setting makes it a great spot for a low-key cozy dinner. Here, you’ll get to enjoy Vietnamese comfort food at its finest, as well as discover a few lesser known dishes, all of which will be beautifully presented – a nod to Nguyen’s fine-dining background.
Dishes you have to try at Saigon Social: bún chả, garlic noodles with shrimp, and bánh mì burger.
2. VAN ĐA
VAN ĐA is one of those restaurants that just seems to get tastier every time you go. Headed by Ms. Yen Ngo, this East Village resto is an homage to Hanoi specialties and the dishes Ngo loved as a child, with recipes that weren’t common in the US. Not only does VAN ĐA do an incredible job with serving these delicious dishes through a modern lens, but they also have a great cocktail menu– which is why it doesn’t come as a surprise that they’re listed as a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant (for the fourth year)!
Dishes you have to try at VAN ĐA: pho short rib grilled cheese, banh it ram (crispy mochi dumplings), or opt for their Regional Set Menu!
Located in the heart of Williamsburg, Bolero is helmed by chef Matt Le Khac, who spent much of his academic life researching the origins and lost traditions of his Vietnamese heritage. Dining at this restaurant is an experience because it’s a dive into all things Vietnam, not just the food, but also the music, architecture, and culture. Watch as Khac and his team use these forgotten techniques to prepare many of their dishes, which are made even better by the rare herbs he grows in his family farm.
Dishes you have to try at Bolero: steamed Littleneck clams & lemongrass, pomelo crab salad, and the ‘unshaken’ beef.
4. Đi Ăn Đi
Đi Ăn Đi is a wonderful laid-back restaurant that has done a great job in really defining the term ‘Vietnamese-American’ cuisine. The moment you walk through its glass doors, you’ll get a glimpse of what the restaurant is like. Similar to its menu, the interior has a retro yet modern feel to it, and that was exactly owner Dennis Ngo’s intention. This resto does not shy away from serving (usually unheard of) traditional dishes and gives a bright twist on otherwise tired dishes. My personal favorite is the bánh tráng nướng (Vietnamese pizza with shrimp floss or clams).
Dishes you have to try at Đi Ăn Đi: ánh tráng trộn (rice paper salad), crispy pig tails with tamarind chile, and cơm gà (chicken with rice).
5. Monsieur Vo
Finally, this list would not be complete without mentioning Monsieur Vo. The sister restaurant to Madame Vo, a popular East Village eatery. Both restaurants are the creation of husband-wife duo Chef Jimmy Ly and Yen Vo. Monsieur Vo is an elegant, modern restaurant that just opened last year. Their menu focuses on street food, drinking food, and larger plates of meat and fish, not to mention, they also have an extensive drinks menu with a ngon (delicious) Vietnamese iced coffee.
Dishes you have to try at Monsieur Vo: bánh mì board, BBH beef shank, and tamarind BBQ ribs.
Vietnamese food is by far my favorite cuisine. For me, there is something so special about the food I grew up eating. Its flavors are vibrant and unique, and its dishes are somehow comforting yet exciting. I truly hope you visit one (if not all) of these restaurants and get a taste of Vietnam – you could also snag one of our RTD Vietnamese iced coffees and take a sip of Saigon.