Best Restaurant You Never Knew Existed

Pho Vung Tau

Pho Vung Tau is a tiny Vietnamese restaurant in the corner space of a huge World War I-era building across from the Apple Market and the Askew Inn on Independence Avenue. But stepping through the front door causes culture shock. Think Saigon, 1969. Shiny blue linoleum floors, Formica-topped tables, patched booths, a baby asleep in her infant seat on one tabletop while at another, lean young men in cotton pullover shirts play cards and furiously smoke Marlboros. At other tables, Vietnamese and Cambodian residents of this northeast neighborhood sip iced coffee with their cigarettes and barely acknowledge the Vietnam rock playing over the sound system. The menu is filled with traditional Vietnamese soups, noodle and rice dishes, roast quail and salted shrimp. The spring rolls, wrapped in a rubbery sheath of moist rice paper, are stuffed with pork and shrimp, sprigs of cilantro and matchsticks of fresh carrot, alongside a thick, spicy peanut sauce sprinkled with chopped nuts. A plate of roasted chicken, skin intact and flavored with lemongrass and chiles, comes to the table on a mound of white rice.
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