Best of Vietnam

Lizzy Caston
photo by Adam Wickham

photo by Adam Wickham

Location: Cartlandia – SE 82nd and Harney
Hours: Tues-Sun 11:00 am – 8pm

The Story: It’s easy to take some things for granted in Portland. Great Vietnamese food in proliferation is one one them. It’s easy to become jaded, “oh, another Vietnamese cart? Sigh.” But Vietnamese food is not only one of the world’s great street foods – street food IS the way most Vietnamese dine out – Vietnamese food is incredibly healthy, satisfying and very affordable given it’s nutritional content. It’s a cuisine we find ourselves craving again and again.

In Vietnam however,  most street food vendors specialize in and serve only one or two menu items, mostly regional specialties, Vietnamese food carts here can have dictionary sized menus that span specialty items from Hanoi in the North to Saigon in the South.

Best of Vietnam in the popular Cartlandia pod out on SE 82nd, is true to its namesake. The menu indeed reads as the greatest hits in Vietnamese cuisine: Cha Gio (crispy eggrolls), Salad Rolls, Beef or Chicken Pho, Bun (noodle bowls), and Vietnamese coffee.  They do offer some regional specialties though you don’t always see at other Vietnamese carts: Bun Bo Hue (a spicy beef and rice noodle soup), Banh Xeo (Crispy stuffed crepe), and Banh Mi Bo Kho (Vietnamese beef stew served with French bread) are just a few choices. We stuck with basics on our visit though with Best of Vietnam’s plump salad rolls and a mixed noodle bowl with grilled chicken and spring rolls. Everything was made fresh to order and was indeed fresh.

photo by Adam Wickham

photo by Adam Wickham

Sure, there are carts out there that razzle-dazzle with upscale gourmet or provide bigger menus (often at bigger prices). But sometimes you just want back-to-basic best of cuisines. Best of Vietnam is here to deliver.

Sample Menu:

  • Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup) – $6.00
  • Salad Rolls – $3
  • Pho Ga (chicken) or Pho Tai (Beef) –  $6.00
  • Bun on rice or rice noodles (grilled shrimp & lemongrass chicken, or, grilled lemongrass chicken and crispy spring rolls) – $7.00
  • Cafe Sua Da (iced coffee with condensed milk) – $3

Phone: 503-489-7553

Mai Pho Vietnamese

John Chilson


Location: SW Alder and 9th  (between 9th and 10th)

Description: Maybe it’s the weather, but I’ve been on a beef pho soup kick lately by “researching” different dishes throughout the Portland metro area, including the wonderful Lavang Restaurant in Lake Oswego [near my former work and in a non-descript shopping center] and most recently Pho Dalat, where I had a decent bowl of pho served with traditional herbs, greens and other accompaniments for a reasonable price. If push comes to shove, I can survive on noodles and broth alone.

A couple weeks back I found myself at food cart ground zero downtown at SW 9th  and Alder [a not so subtle reference to the block of some of Portland’s best food carts] and spied a recent newcomer: Mai Pho Vietnamese.

[Read more…]


Lizzy Caston

UPDATED December 05, 2008


Location: SW 10th, between Alder and Washington

Description: A Vietnamese cart serving rice noodle bowls, grilled dishes, a Bahn Mi sandwich variety or two, a couple of lesser known Vietnamese options and the great soup export known as Pho. Huong’s has also recently expanded their vegetarian menu. There are now an equal number of vegetarian and meat focused entrees.

Once upon a time I got stuck in Hanoi, Vietnam for an extended, yet unplanned stay. The story of this little adventure is long and complicated, but the end result? I fell in love with this ancient city, met some wonderful locals who adopted me as their friend and I absolutely fell head over heals in love with the food. I especially loved discovering some of the thousands of street stands, carts and humble little huts serving up some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, anywhere.

Huong’s reminds me of the little food stands I came to love in Hanoi, and in subsequent trips, other parts of Vietnam as well.  Especially the Pho, found at street stands from Sapa on the border of China all the way to the Southern tip of the Mekong delta. Pho is eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner and as a late night snack all throughout the country, features many regional variations on a theme, and is cheap, filling and healthy. It’s the perfect cart food really, and I’m excited that Huong’s is serving it.

$6.00 Pho Bo at Huong's
Huong’s offers three types of pho: pho ga (chicken), pho bo (beef) and vegetarian pho. All come as a generous portions that could easily provide 2 meals for less ravenous appetites. Huong’s phos have quite aromatic and richly flavored broths, contain a good ratio of broth to rice noodles and are served with the accompaniments of lime, jalapeno peppers, basil and bean sprouts as well as the standard hot and savory sauces. For the price of $6.00, Huong’s pho certainly stands up to most others in Portland. My one beef (no pun intended) is that Huong’s doesn’t offer a nice ceramic or plastic bowl to eat the stuff at at their little table in situ, but the large paper carton they do provide works just fine. However, the tiny little teaspoons provided with the wooden chopsticks and paper napkins do not hold more than an eyedropper of broth at a time and make picking up the noodles, as per Asian noodle soup slurping custom, impossible. Huong’s, please invest in some Asian style soup spoons. My preference given their current soup spoon situation, is to take the pho back to my office where I can transfer it into my own large pho bowl to be eaten with my own chopsticks and spoon.

The best way to eat pho. Note the large Asian spoon.

The best way to eat pho. Note the large Asian spoon.

[Read more…]

Pho Le

Lizzy Caston

Location: SW 3rd and Stark Parking Lot

Description: Vietnamese including a variety of Bahn mi (sandwiches) for $3.oo, Pho soups ($5.50-$6.00) including the hot and spicy regional sour noodle soup known as bun bo hue ($5.50), and rice and noodle plates such as grilled lemongrass chicken, pork, or stir fried veggies. Salad rolls are 2 for $3.00.

Hours: Lunch Hours Mon-Fri

Phone: Unkown

Website: Unknown


Vietnamese Food To Go

Lizzy Caston

Location: SW 5th and Oak/Stark Parking Lot

Description: I like establishments with straightforward names. Guess what this one serves? Vietnamese food of course. I like Vietnamese food for lunch because it can be filling but not too heavy.

VFTG makes a decent Pho, As in the spicy, Vietnamese Penicillin, good for what ails you noodle soup. Comes in either beef (pho bo), chicken (pho ga), or one they call “spicy beef flavor”. Each are $5.00 and come with the usual accompaniments of basil, cilantro, mung bean sprouts, and hot sauces, etc.

Salad rolls are a great bargain here with 2 for $3.00 or 3 for $3.50.

Other entrees include large rice or noodle bowls at $4.50 with things like grilled chicken or beef, some vegetarian options, and occasional specials such as the stuffed Vietnamese rice crepe known as Bahn Xeo and Bahn Mi Vietnamese sandwiches.

Hours: Mon-Fri Lunchtime Hours

Phone: Unknown

Website: None