Photograph: Jade Wulfraat

The best Vietnamese restaurants in Montreal

Here’s where you need to eat if you want the best Vietnamese restaurants in Montreal serving pho, banh mi and more

JP Karwacki

The best Vietnamese restaurants in Montreal are a huge fixture in the city’s offerings, since Vietnamese immigrants arrived by the thousands in the 1970s and 1980s, bringing the rich culinary traditions of the northern and southern regions with them. Setting up shop across the city, found in Downtown Montreal to the best restaurants in Chinatown and beyond, Montrealers can be found downing bowls of pho and carb-loading with banh mi sandwiches on the reg; they are, after all, unparalleled cheap eats in both price and flavour. Bonus: Given the cuisine’s use of meat and seafood, many figure in among the best seafood restaurants in Montreal. Enjoy.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Montreal

Time Out Market Montreal
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This is where Vietnamese food in Montreal comes to party. Bite into what Le Red Tiger is serving and take a trip through Vietnam, no airfare required. The food from restaurateur Dan Pham and chef Phong Thach is seriously transportive stuff: From highly stylized reinventions of street food—like a knockout beef carpaccio with shrimp chips—to piping-hot bowls of traditional pho, this kitchen’s menu captures the bona fide flavours and aromatics of Vietnamese favorites while adding welcome twists and turns of their own invention.

Where to find the best Vietnamese restaurants in Montreal

1. Cafeden

Simple, sleek, refined—not the typical way Vietnamese eats are presented in Montreal, let alone when it’s among the best restaurants in Little Italy. Of course this restaurant knows it, as the ‘den’ in their name is the Vietnamese word for ‘black sheep’, as they know they stand out from the pack (or herd, in this case). Owners Chin Vu and Kiley Campbell follow the southern traditions of Vu’s mother here, particularly when it comes to savory pho, but the spicy chicken wings with yuzu, fresh papaya salad with calamari, the full-to-burst banh bao and a few Thai and Korean influences make for an impeccable menu.

2. HÀ

This name’s two locations in town may be fashioned after classic street eateries on the streets of Hanoi, but an experience eating here comes with more sleek Montreal vibes than that. The restaurants’ Laotian executive chef Ross Louangsignotha carries on the traditions of the original Vietnamese chef Mr. Hà (RIP) by cooking up Mr. Hà’s pho, pad thai and imperial roll recipes in addition to some delicious steamed buns—coming with pork belly or shrimp—and other solid options. Check out the restaurant group’s speakeasy bar Nhậu, located below their Old Montreal address, for some sharing cocktails before your meal.


3. Pho Tay Ho

Montrealers often cite this place as having the best pho in the city. Exceedingly cheap and delicious, any piping hot bowl of broth filled with protein, fresh basil, bean sprouts and a wedge of lime is a solid bet. With their biggest combo (a meal fit for two) coming in at just over $20, it’s little wonder why the line-ups start by lunch and won’t end until dinner’s done. And while the soup tends to get all the attention, consider their sautéed dishes of seafood, chicken and beef as well.

4. Pho Bang New York

Hot on the trail for best pho in the city after Pho Tay Ho, Pho Bang New York is the next in line for the crown (and according to some, superior). We don’t always come here for the soup, though; their house specialties are among our most favourite dishes when it comes to Vietnamese food in Montreal. The northern-style banh cuon here, rice crepes stuffed with pork and mushrooms, their curry chicken or their rice-based clay pot dishes are all exceedingly well done. The pho might be a must, but save some room for the rest of the menu.


5. Pho Lien

This remains the reliable restaurant up in Côte-des-Neiges, and pho freaks would do well to visit. In business for over 25 years with the same recipes it started with from Madame Lien, it’s been consistently busy ever since. The only thing that rivals their 15+ pho varieties are their specialties of stir fry and grillwork, best followed up by the spicy soup they only serve on the weekends. Don’t think you can roll in for just a snack to take home: The takeout soup option is only available in large or extra large formats.

6. Pho MC Brossard

If you want the good stuff, sometimes you need to travel. Known for satiating many a crowds in Brossard, Pho MC’s pho and broth-less rice noodle bowls all come with the highest commendations. It’s once the weekend rolls around, however, that you want to grab a bus over here: Vietnamese pocket pancake filled with pork and shrimp, grilled beef in betel leaves, pork chops and udon noodles rolled in a coconut sauce are only available then. We’re putting our foot down on this one: Why let the South Shore have all the fun?


7. My Canh

Consider this spot to be the better-kept secret among the best restaurants in Chinatown. The standards of rare beef, tendons and tripe or lemongrass with chicken are undoubtedly the crowd-pleasers on this restaurant’s menu, but it’s that small, highlighted-in-orange section of the menu with three choices that we come here for: Soups of escargot, shrimp and ground pork, or shrimp cakes. Each is a thicker, heartier option than clear, southern-style phos, and they’ll satisfy a newcomer any day of the week.

8. Tran Cantine Vietnamienne

Before Tran opened up, there wasn’t a single option for pho and bahn mi in all of Saint-Henri. The stakes then were plenty high, but this one delivered: Standard sandwiches were turned up a notch with the application of fried eggs, pan-fried soybean curd in banana leaves and good-for-the-soul chicken broth-based pho made this one a quick winner. Before you think you’re done ordering, grab some beef salad and enjoy its aromatic mix of herbs and citrus.


9. Le Petit Sao

This family affair’s captured a lot of Montrealers’ hearts, so much so that it’s one of the few in town to have expanded to three locations. Pho both carnivorous and vegan, lemongrass chicken on shrimp chips, General ‘Sao’ fried cauliflower and veggie cakes topped with dollops of hoisin mayo are only a few of the drawcards on offer here. It’s also one of the few—if not the only one in town—to offer a Vietnamese brunch menu at their Pointe-Saint-Charles address, and that location’s all the more alluring when considering their simple yet effective cocktail menu.

10. Restaurant Lyla

Being a BYOB restaurant typically means you’ll jack your prices a bit in order to make up for a drop in booze sales, but thankfully—almost strangely—Lyla does no such thing. Grab a bottle (or two) of beer or wine along with friends and family and make a feast of it: The plates here come amply loaded, from the selection of dumplings and fried rice pancakes to Tonkinese soups and the occasional menu item that smacks more Szechuan than Vietnamese. Word to the wise: The dinner and lunch combos give you the biggest bang for your buck.


11. Pho Nguyen

Catering primarily to the downtown student crowds around Concordia University—if they can squeeze in on a busy day—is this pho-forward restaurant. It’s not uncommon to see someone settle in with a XL bowl and plow through it within a half hour. Their grilled chicken option has cured many of our hangovers, but the real deal lies in the beef-three-ways option. Soak up the broth with an order of their ‘breadcrumb shrimps’, plump and crispy bites of battered seafood best enjoyed with a bit of hot sauce and hoisin.

12. Marché Hung Phat

When it comes to a classic bahn mi—a fresh foot-long baguette filled with pork liver pâté or grilled chicken, a house mayo, sprigs of cilantro and pickled daikon and carrot—there’s no better place to go than this Vietnamese grocer and sandwich shop based in Villeray. Ask any Montrealer where they’d sooner go to grab this cheap eat, and at a mere $5 for a meal here, there’s little mystery as to why those in the know say Hung Phat’s the one and only for them. Folks as far as Vermont and Nunavut are said to have ordered them by the crateful, so get ‘em while they’re hot.


13. Dakao

Situated in a basement location that’s announced by its bright neon signage, Dakao’s humble and straightforward menus tend to betray the level of quality they serve. In addition to over two dozen pho options that are incredibly cheap ($9 buys you an XL bowl), there’s steamed rice and vermicelli dishes that are equally easy on the wallet if you’re not in the mood for soup. A first-time visit to this Villeray eatery easily makes for a devoted customer.

14. Pho Thanh Long

Those who eat the northern-style pho here generally believe to be among the best the city has to offer, and with good reason: Thicker soups with an almost stew-like consistency come with a range of proteins, from ground crab to spicy beef, and they’re all incredibly cheap eats when tasted—we don’t want them to charge more, so we tend to make up the owed difference in tips. That goes double for when their crab rangoon puffs are in stock, made gooey at the core by a tab of cream cheese.


15. Nam Do Restaurant

For over twenty years, this Vietnamese BYOB restaurant has been as popular for its specialization in southern-style pho as it has for its Chinese and Thai dishes coming hot off the wok and ladle. With menu items that seem determined to never break the bank (the largest ‘meal soup’ sizes are capped at $11.25), a selection of bubble teas to round out a meal and desserts like fried ice cream, bananas, pineapples or apples, there’s little reason not to park yourself on their Plateau-based restaurant’s terrasse come summer.

16. Banh Xeo Minh

It’s not all about pho here—well, yeah, the pho’s damn good, but there’s just as many menu items that are worth a visit. Northern rice noodle pancakes and bánh bèo rice cakes are commonly ordered alongside soup, but it’s the delicious sizzling bánh xèo pancakes served in an omelette-like fashion that they take their name from with pride. The chalkboard menus written all in Vietnamese might throw a visitor off, but the owners will be happy to help with any questions.


17. Banh Mi Banh Yiu

A relative newcomer to the neighbourhood of Mile End, this snack shop may not precisely follow the standards and traditions of your typical banh mi spot—what other Vietnamese restaurant serves japchae salad?—but that’s what we like about it. Basted and broiled char siu-style chicken is just as much a good choice as their spicy eggplant and avocado pâté options, and all in all, it’s places like this that are keeping things fresh on the sandwich side of Vietnamese eats in town.

18. Vua

Granted, this franchised restaurant with five restaurants (and counting?) in Montreal might throw off anyone with a hankering for more ‘authentic’ Vietnamese eats in town. However, the rapid-fire pace these eateries make their food doesn’t diminish how tasty their banh mi is. If anything, Vua may be the Montreal export which spreads Vietnamese sandwiches to every corner of the country, especially when considering how they offer ‘a little of everything’ (see Japanese snacks, sushi and bubble tea) alongside their awesome cheap eats.

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