Vietnamese Victory: The Twin Cities Battle of Pho, Banh Mi and Spring Rolls

So the Malaysian and I tend to eat a lot of Asian-ish food- Never fear, we will branch out and make this blog a bit more diversified I promise. But there is no better place than the Twin Cities to have an obsession with… you guessed it, Vietnamese food. Anthony Bourdain actually exclaimed that Minneapolis/St. Paul is the best place in the country to find this cuisine.

Mid-week when we are tired of cooking, thinking about where to go for Saturday lunch, or in need of a rather large, warm and filling supper, Vietnamese food always seems to hit the spot with the promise of a cheap, satisfying and fresh tasting meal.

With so many family-owned options scattered throughout the city, there tends to be some rivalries, loyalties and discussions regarding the place to sit before a large bowl of steaming noodles and protein.

So here I have compiled a super short sampling of some notable Viet places in the metro. Saigon, a top contender in St. Paul, Quang, heavily Yelp debated to be the best in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Lotus To Go Go- a wildcard place I found on a Village Voice Daily deal.

Yea, you may not agree..or you may not feel our judgement is sound.. but we are alright with it. Since we aren’t making this a huge, huge post we will only rate the places on quality of food, service, and price to determine the final score.

Saigon

704 University Ave W
St Paul, MN 55104
Neighborhood: Midway

I have been here over four times and each visit seemed to give me a sense of a sliding downward tumble. Because it was one of my first experiences with Viet food in college, Saigon holds a place in my heart.

Food Quality: The pho is decent but the small isn’t as large as you’d expect. Pretty standard menu offerings but the broth has a strong hint of nutmeg. So if you’re not into that.. go for somewhere else.

The Banh mi is actually notable as it is super fresh,  and full of ingredients. yumm cilantro and pate.. You really can’t go wrong with this kind of a sandwich for just under $3.00.

The spring rolls.. nothing too notable, they ‘re not bad though.

Service: Deplorable. They aren’t exactly the most timely crew. They bring food out at different times, or actually once they forgot our entire sandwich. (It worked out because we went to Izzy’s after!) The floors are pretty dirty, even though I love hole in the wall restaurants.. this isn’t an awesome touch. They also only accept cash. Not good vibes.

Saigon abruptly closed their doors.. Only to later assure patrons on their Facebook page that they’ll reopen soon under new ownership. Hopefully they do a few staff service trainings. But hopefully they won’t quit their Pho Challenge.

Price: On the cheaper end. Probably the cheapest of the three.

Quang

2719 Nicollet Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Neighborhood: Whittier

After reading about this place on City Pages, Yelp and lines like, “Our spring rolls are famous in the area and it is a great way to begin your experience” on their website, I kept bugging the Malaysian to make a trip to Eat Street just for this.

Food Quality: Even though we’ve only been here once, I think we got a good feel for the food. On the beautiful, still summer day we found ourselves wanting to stray away from the pho. The Malaysian got the Com Thap Cam– Quang pork chops, shredded pork, and crab meat pie and I got the Bun Ga Nuong– Grilled marinated chicken salad (more of a noodle dish with a bit of salad. Additionally, and seemingly by default we ordered the spring rolls.

All in all we were pretty impressed with our dishes because they were served in ample quantity, the meats were marinated to perfection and walked away thinking that this was certainly a meal we couldn’t make at home. We were disappointed with the spring rolls as they aren’t made to order…meaning they were suuper chewy and not stand out fresh.

Service: Very friendly and sort of attentive staff. They seem to take good care of the overall restaurant. No complaints.

Price: $7.50 for each of our entrees and $3.50 for the spring rolls. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Lotus To Go Go

113 W Grant St.
Minneapolis, MN 55403
Neighborhood: Downtown Minneapolis

Oh man, am I glad that I jumped on the Village Voice Deal. We’ve been here twice because of our awesome first experience. Even after going there twice in a matter of a month, I still dream about the next time I can go back.

Food Quality: Out of this world. Each time I went I got the seafood sweet and sour soup with white rice. Oh man. Yum this is a must try. The Malaysian got the special spicy pho which he was absolutely in love with just like the shrimp vermicelli salad he got the previous time. The spring rolls are large and have lots of cilantro. To Go Go certainly knocks it out of the park. Bam.

Service: The serving staff here is super friendly but still super real while the restaurant itself is simple yet immaculate. Another awesome for this place.

Price: Sweet and sour soup ran $4.95, Vermicelli salad ~$6.00 and large pho- $7.00

So who is the victor? If you haven’t already guessed, this win certainly goes to the underdog Lotus. If you like Vietnamese food and are near downtown Minneapolis we certainly think you should check this place out because we give Lotus 5 stars.

What is your favorite Vietnamese place?

Keep watching for something non-Asian to come. Oktoberfesting?!

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