When the French controlled Vietnam, baguettes crossed cultures, and one of the finest results of this is the banh mi sandwich. They’re plentiful in this area, but this bakery creates most of the bread restaurants use, so go try the source, a cute and colorful counter-service spot with stimulation galore. Jump in line for the barbecue pork or the Ba Le special, which piles housemade pâté, headcheese and pork onto a baguette with tangy carrot and daikon slivers, cilantro and jalapeño. Grab a coconut custard (served in an actual coconut!) for an interesting ending.
Former cooking-school instructor Bill Millholland opened his Uptown shop with two goals: Give people pastries and sandwiches for the early part of the day, and cheeses to nosh on later. At present, the noshes take a back seat to the breads and pastries, which fill the shop’s counter. Daily coffee cakes have a pleasantly dense, pound cake–like crumb, whereas sticky buns with hints of honey are notably soft. Huge sandwiches are a satisfying choice from the savory menu, and if you happen to fall in love with the bread used, you’re in luck: Loaves are available to go.
The Ethiopian restaurant serves impeccable versions of classics like vegetarian sambusa, with a flaky crust and mashed lentils; ambasha, a thick and fluffy loaf of bread, with ayib begomen, a slightly dry cottage cheese mixed with greens; and ye-misir wot, snappy red lentils brimming with ginger and onion.
With elegant yet homey decor and a gorgeous tasting menu, you'd never know that Jake Bickelhaupt's 18-seat BYOB restaurant used to be a fried chicken joint. The seasonally changing menu reflects not just what's available in terms of produce but the genius going on inside Bickelhaupt's head. Dishes have included “crispy snacks” like salmon skin chicharrons dusted with malt vinegar powder.
For some, Sundays are for church. For others, it’s dim sum. This spot offers one of the largest selections in town and proves the most consistent overall. People pack the giant banquet space to settle in for the barrage of carts that wheel past, brimming with a dozen different dumplings (shrimp-peanut, chive and pork stand out), fluffy buns (barbecue pork and pan-fried veggie-pork are awesome) and various fried and steamed morsels of hangover-absorbing snacks. Don’t miss the taro puff, ribs, pot stickers and sweet egg-custard tarts.
Thought this was just a bar to belly up to with a Belgian brew in hand? One bite and you’ll know there’s much more. Our perfect night involves sampling the drafts at the bar while slurping down the famous ale-steamed mussels, but you could also class it up, grab a proper table and dig into seasonal rotations such as wood-roasted spring chicken with morels and favas, available in the spring. Beer geeks know this is the place in town to school their palate on craft brews, and they do come in droves.
The Uptown outpost of Tony Hu's stellar Szechaun empire serves the same fare as the Chinatown location, so dig into favorites like mapo tofu—silky, light cubes of bean curd in a tingling, Szechuan pepper–charged broth—or Tony’s Chicken with Three Chili. The fried bits of dark meat are sweet, salty and craveable in the same heroin-like way fast food is.
Known as Tank to Anglos, this spot is the answer for indecisive diners wandering Argyle Street. For Vietnamese-food pros, authentic picks are done well; for novices, the staff is apt with both English and suggestions. Lotus-root salad is everything this cuisine can be—limey and minty with shrimp flavor, crunchy peanuts and a subtle chili kick. The pho is among the best around.
The unassuming restaurant feels more like the waiting room at a doctor's office—decor includes fish tanks and stacks of magazines—but the food transcends the surroundings. Start with fried dried beef, a more supple version of beef jerky that comes with an addictive lime, fish sauce and chili dipping sauce. The menu focuses on excellent pan-fried noodles and rice dishes, like pad kee mao, which has lightly crisp edges and spicy black bean sauce, and tender, roast duck tossed with basil and served over rice.
Seafood’s the name of the game at this modest Chinese staple, so start off right with clams bathed in a spicy black bean sauce or a huge spicy-and-salted crab, deep fried and tossed with onions and peppers. Not feeling seafood? A dish of Szechuan string beans adds some green to the table, while the crispy chicken is a half or whole bird with golden, crackly skin and fresh lemon and spiced salt.