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While as unpretentious as a Hibbing diner, Hoàng couldn't be more exotic to someone raised on meat-and-potatoes fare. Plastic-wrapped trays of colorful Vietnamese desserts line the front counter, and handwritten menu boards proffer an imposing collection of dishes: black sticky rice with coconut shavings and powdered nuts, lotus shoot salads, leaves and bean sprouts being tossed into massive bowls of brightly flavored soup containing crab meat and perfectly fried tofu. The tasty and surprisingly substantial báhn mì here are among the best food deals in the Twin Cities. Made with toasted French bread, cucumber, cilantro, pickled daikon, meat, and a special umami-rich sauce, the báhn mì is a wonderful little package of contrasts, crunchy and soft, sweet and sour, both meaty and stuffed with crispy vegetables. If you're feeling tame, order one with marinated pork or grilled meatballs. If you're feeling frisky, go for the jambon/meatloaf/headcheese combo, or the Bánh Mì Chà Bông, which comes with finely shredded dried pork. And don't forget to grab a smooth, cold, creamy-as-butter, perfectly sweetened avocado smoothie for the road.
Knowingly or not, restaurants aspire to one of two ideal forms: One is a gateway to the exotic, offering the strange, the rare, the novel, and the elegantly delightful. The other is home: casual comfort, familiar flavors, a friendly embrace of... More »
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