Philadelphia ranks in the top 10 on the list of U.S. cities with the largest Vietnamese-American populations. But that’s old news to any Philadelphian who has enjoyed a pâté and headcheese-filled banh mi (known around these parts as a Vietnamese hoagie) or a hangover-slaying bowl of pho. This Southeast Asian cuisine has been a longtime favorite in Philly, from the strip malls on Washington Avenue to the mom and pop storefronts of Kensington and Olney, and over the bridge in South Jersey.Read More
Where to Eat Vietnamese Food in Philly
12 essential restaurants for pho, banh mi, bun bo hue, and more
Cafe Mi Quang
This cheap and cheerful Kensington restaurant plays all of the hits with a menu of classics, all coming in at $10 and under. In addition to banh mi, pho, and rice plates, the house special here (and name of the cafe) is a noodle dish hailing from the central part of the country made with a turmeric-infused broth and fresh herbs and finished with ground peanuts and toasted sesame rice crackers.
You won’t go wrong with the beef or chicken pho at the casual Thang Long in Kensington, which also offers a selection of vermicelli and rice dishes. Vegans have options here too, including tofu and meat-free meatball or chicken pho.
Cafe Pho Ga Thanh Thanh
Phở gà (chicken pho) is the go-to at this barebones soup spot under the El, across from Thang Long. It’s accompanied by the usual suspects (lime wedges, bean sprouts, and basil) as well as a small ramekin of a fiery dip made of salt, black pepper, and sliced habanero.
Stock (multiple locations)
With a moniker that speaks to the base of all good pho, the stock (and all of the ingredients) at this Fishtown BYOB starts with sustainable proteins and well-sourced veggies. Chose from two varieties: chicken with onion and fried shallot or a vegan mushroom version with coconut oil and tofu. The banh mi here veer untraditional too, with basil chicken, tamarind pork, or tofu topped off with pickled red cabbage. There’s a second, fast-casual location in Rittenhouse with a similar mix of Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian dishes.
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With its dark wood, dim lights, and upstairs bar, this 35-year-old Chinatown staple is a step up in ambiance from many of the eateries on this list. The sprawling menu covers crispy spring rolls, filling vermicelli and broken rice dishes, steaming pho, several clay pot options, and more, plus a bonus: strong, fruity tiki drinks. There’s also sister spot in West Philly, Vietnam Cafe.
Banh Mi and Bottles
There are a few Saigon-inspired restaurants in the city with full bars and kitschy tiki cocktails, but nothing that compares to the bar program at this modern Vietnamese kitchen and bottle shop. Here fun bar bites like tamarind wings and scallion corn are paired with Hanoi Pimm’s Cups and refillable coconuts of Wild Turkey 101, amaro, and lime.
Nam Son Bakery
Housed in Philadelphia’s oldest (and not long for this world) Vietnamese shopping center, this bakery and sandwich shop executes its banh mi perfectly with freshly baked bread, generous fillings like grilled meatballs and barbecue pork, and crisp, crunchy, and spicy carrots, daikon, jalapeños, and cilantro stems.
It’s all pho, all the time at this no-frills eatery with communal tables in the Wing Phat Plaza on Washington Avenue. Choose your meats, order a lemon soda, count to 10, and the steaming pho will already be on the table. It’s cash-only, but a bowl will set you back less than $6.
A massive menu of diverse dishes make this perennially packed dining room a staple of Washington Avenue’s Vietnamese dining scene. Broken rice plates and vermicelli with pork chops and quiche make for a great quick lunch, while larger groups can linger over family-style meals of lotus root salad, fish stewed in a clay pot, and country-style beef cubes.
Known for its spicy and satisfying bún bò huế, pho’s totally slept on soup sister, Cafe Diem’s house special doesn’t disappoint. This version is laden with thick noodles, braised beef, tendon, pig’s feet, and slices of ham, all bubbling about in a chile-flecked lemongrass broth.
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The staff at Pho Ha doesn’t dillydally when it comes to getting steaming hot bowls of broth and noodles on tables. Order phở tái (rare steak pho) or phở chin nac (brisket pho) and there’s a good chance that the main event arrives well before beverages like salty plum sodas and avocado smoothies.
Hên Vietnamese Restaurant
The Philly area’s most stylish Vietnamese restaurant is located over the Ben Franklin Bridge in a strip mall in South Jersey. This relative newcomer plates photo-ready versions of bánh xèo — rice crepes with minced pork belly and shrimp — and canh chua cá, a soup of slow-cooked fish, pineapples, and tomatoes in a tangy tamarind broth.