Pho and banh mi tend to dominate conversations about Vietnamese food around here, but Oakland restaurants prove that there is so much more to explore within this vastly varied cuisine. Some spots focus on specific regions, like the Mekong Delta, while others are known for hard-to-find dishes, like bánh cuốn. Regardless of what you’re craving, here are 13 of the best places to eat Vietnamese food in Oakland — and yes, there is plenty of pho and banh mi, too.Read More
The 13 Best Vietnamese Restaurants in Oakland
From Hue-style dumplings to all the noodle soups
Vien Huong Restaurant
You could argue Vien Huong shouldn’t be on this list, since it serves dishes from China’s Guangdong province. But the owners are from Vietnam, and this style of Teochew cooking is really popular in Vietnam. Plus, the restaurant’s name is Vietnamese, so we’re going to say it’s Vietnamese and Chinese. Regardless, noodle soups swimming with fish balls, shrimp, meats, and wide rice or egg noodles are the thing to order here.
Tay Ho Oakland Restaurant & Bar
This stylish Chinatown restaurant serves Vietnamese-inspired cocktails alongside its traditional Vietnamese eats. The menu draws from all over the country, but diners should pay special attention to dishes from central Vietnam and the Mekong Delta regions. Bánh bột lọc (chewy Hue-style dumplings) are delightful, as are the Mekong turmeric cakes, fried turmeric catfish, and fish curry. Northern Vietnamese bánh cuốn — delicate rice noodle rolls — are also a specialty.
Vietnamese street eats and comfort food are served in a warm, classy setting at Co Nam, the Temescal branch of the popular San Francisco restaurant. The menu changes every so often, but you might see some harder-to-find dishes like ba la lot (grilled beef wrapped in betel leaf) alongside staples like pork belly buns, shaken beef, and build-your-own bowls.
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Oakland’s best pho spots generally sit east of Lake Merritt, and the quality tends to quickly diminish the farther north you go. One exception to the rule is Monster Pho, where the broth is rich with beef, star anise, and cinnamon. Bonus points: Wine, beer, and pandan coconut waffles for dessert.
Phở Vy Vietnamese Cuisine
People have fierce opinions about who serves the best pho in town, and for many, that opinion favors Phở Vy Vietnamese Cuisine. The rare steak floating on top of the pho is, indeed, rare. Another great option is the hearty beef stew with soft French bread for dipping.
Pho King recently moved into a bigger space closer to the lake, and it’s as bustling as ever. It’s a favorite spot for pho but perhaps even more so for bun bo Hue, the spicy beef noodle soup teeming with lemongrass.
Đà Nẵng Quán Vietnamese Cuisine
Central Vietnamese cuisine is the focus at Đà Nẵng Quán, so you already know the bun bo Hue — the spicy beef noodle soup — is going to be good. Other regional favorites include banh beo (chewy rice cakes topped with ground beef, shrimp, and fish sauce), bun hen (noodles with baby clams and fermented shrimp paste), and banh xeo (egg crepes with crispy edges).
Phở Gà Hương Quê Cafe
A top destination for its namesake chicken pho, this East Oakland restaurant is all about the bird. Try chicken over rice, noodle soup with shredded chicken, the whole chicken, or, of course, the pho ga. Either way, you’re getting some of the silkiest meat in town with a generous side of ginger scallion sauce to smear over everything.
Cam Huong Cafe
Many were devastated when Cam Huong Restaurant closed in Oakland Chinatown — it was a local favorite for exceedingly affordable and reliable banh mi. Fortunately, there’s still this location in East Oakland, serving up the same grilled pork sandwiches for $3.50. The barbecued chicken and curry tofu banh mi are also popular orders.
Phở Ao Sen Restaurant
Prepare to wait during peak times for piping hot goodness at Phở Ao Sen, which tends to be Eater’s pick for the best all-around pho in the East Bay. Whether you’re choosing chicken or beef pho, the broth is consistently good — simultaneously rich, delicate, and simple.
Miền Tây Restaurant
You’ll spot many orders of bun rieu, a vividly red crab-tomato soup brimming with crab meatballs, tofu, and pork blood, going around this pint-sized restaurant. But since the owners hail from the Mekong Delta region, you might want to try their personal specialty: bun nuoc leo tra vinh, which stars a clear and pungent fermented fish broth, topped with pork and seafood. Miền Tây is also a good spot to try banh bot chien, an ideal drinking snack of fried rice cakes with egg.
Banh Mi Ba Le
The line moves quickly at Banh Mi Ba Le, which makes what some argue to be the best Vietnamese sandwiches in Oakland. Most sandwiches clock in at about $3 and are stuffed with a generous amount of meat. Don’t miss the version with meatballs and a runny egg — and do throw in a delicious fruit smoothie for kicks.
The Temple Club
The menu changes constantly at the Temple Club, but you can bet you’ll see dishes that you can’t find anywhere else in the East Bay. Chef-owner Geoffrey Deetz spent 16 years cooking and eating in Vietnam, and he’s brought back dishes from all corners of the country to his colorful East Oakland restaurant.