Although it’s not particularly vegetarian-friendly, I love Vietnamese food. I had been hearing great things about this new place in Ridgewood, right where Brooklyn turns into Queens in the middle or nowhere. On a snowy winter night I went with my friends Jeff & Eva, only to find there was an hour wait. No wonder; the space at Bun-Ker holds maybe six tables, all crammed in close together in what looks like a street-side restaurant in Vietnam. I was happy to see they have quite a few vegetarian choices on the menu, but although my meat-eating friends raved about their meal I came away disappointed. The vegetarian banh xeo, a crepe filled with mushrooms and bean sprouts, was bland and greasy. They did provide fish sauce for some seasoning, but if you’re going to go to the trouble of making a vegetarian option, why have it rely on fish sauce for flavor? I had the same problem with the grilled eggplant and zucchini (pictured above), a variation on bun — usually room temperature noodles topped with warm cooked food and a mix of pickled and raw veggies. Here the noodles were topped with the grilled eggplant and zucchini, but they were also completely unseasoned. Again there was fish sauce provided, though I didn’t use any. They did bring me some lime wedges when I asked, and I topped it with plenty of sriracha, but those could only help so much. I’m sure the meat and seafood dishes are worthy of the praise, but I left quite unhappy with the vegetarian food I had.
Bun-Ker — 46-63 Metropolitan Ave, Queens
Ha Noi is a new Vietnamese restaurant that opened in the old Second Helpings space this weekend. I stopped in yesterday for my first meal, and it was quite good. I was disappointed that they don’t have a vegetarian version of the crispy spring rolls, but the fresh summer rolls were nice and fresh, and the peanut sauce was delicious. I also got the tofu bun, room temperature rice noodles with fresh carrots and lettuce, topped with crispy tofu. The noodles were really excellent. The staff was also very accommodating — bun usually comes with fish sauce, but they offered me a variety of different sauces instead. Oh, they also serve banh mi, bringing the total number of Vietnamese sandwich places within four blocks up to three. The rest of the menu is so extensive, though, that I don’t see why you’d want to order the sandwiches at Ha Noi. There were the usual newly-opened problems: they sent me my app, then my entree… and then my app again, and I had to ask for my check multiple times, but I’m sure they’ll iron those problems out. I’ll definitely be back.
Ha Noi — 448 9th St, Brooklyn
Every time I go home, LA, I always carry a mental list of restaurants and bars I want to visit. Of course once I get to LA all of my plans changed or became nonexistent. Things happened or most of the time I get damn lazy. Though I can guarantee you I will get my In-N-Out. It also helps that my parents’ place is walkable to an In-N-Out but who really walks in LA? Yes it takes 2mins to drive over in my jam jam thru the drive-thru.
My friend Matt from NY was also in LA visiting his bro, Chris, that recently moved to the Los Feliz area. I’m preeetty familiar with the streets of Los Feliz because The Gastrobus parks at the Los Feliz Farmers Market every Sunday and you know everytime I’m in LA I take a quick visit to the truck.
Around 1pm I got to Los Feliz and parked my car on a side street close to Chris’s place. We said hello and didn’t waste much time with chit chat and walked over to Umami Burgers for brunch since we were all starving. I have heard a lot and read a lot about Umami Burgers. My friend Sophie loooooves the place. Great thing about Los Feliz is that everything is so close to each other so we just walked over.
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Sometimes after a long day sitting in the office, all I want to do is head home and just chill. But..BUT sometimes I rather not go home too quickly because well it could get boring at home. Especially when the weather is super nice, who wants to be indoor? Few weeks ago I had a GIANT craving for a banh mi sandwich so I decided to head down to Chinatown.
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On a recent trip to the East Village I decided to stop for lunch at Baoguette, a chain of Vietnamese-style sandwich shops run by Michael Huynh (of Bia Garden among others). I hadn’t really planned on stopping there, because in my previous research I hadn’t seen a vegetarian option on the menu, but when I walked by there it was on the menu: the Veguette. It’s a sandwich made with kung pao style soy protein, loaded up with pickled vegetables and cilantro.
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First there was Hanco’s, then Henry’s, and now there’s Home, the newest banh mi shop in Park Slope. Home opened in the space formerly occupied by Earth Tonez, and it’s been open for about two months. I visited on a chilly winter night a couple of weeks ago. Home makes sandwiches in the mold of those two other places, but not nearly as well crafted. My tofu sandwich, though a bit cheaper than even Henry’s, had way too much mayonnaise, not enough spice, and some limp-looking cilantro. If you’re down on 5th Avenue and you just have to have a Vietnamese sandwich it’ll do in a pinch, but I’d stick with the two places on 7th Avenue.
Home — 349 5th Ave, Brooklyn
When we told our friend Anh that we wanted to get some banh mi, she suggested her favorite place in all of NYC: Ba Xuyen, in Borough Park. We met up with her and two of her friends for lunch there last week. They have (among other things) eight different banh mi on the menu, but none of them are vegetarian. They were more than willing to make one for me though, and they only charged me $2.25 for it.
I’m used to the vegetarian sandiwches at Hanco’s or Nicky’s which have some kind of filling — tofu or portobello mushrooms — that getting this sandwich was kind of a shock. It was just the pickled vegetables with a handful of cilantro and sauce. It wasn’t bad, but not my kind of banh mi. Much better was the excellent jackfruit shake I got along with it.
Ba Xuyen — 4222 8th Ave, Brooklyn