Cuisine: This family-run restaurant has long provided Washingtonians with a kind of Vietnamese Cooking 101—introducing them to the glories of pho, of smoky grilled pork over slippery rice noodles, of folding bits of crepe into giant fans of lettuce. Nearly two decades on, it remains not merely the area’s best introduction to the genre but—amid a flood of competition—the best Vietnamese restaurant, period. The menu is long and sprawling and turns up few outright misses. To come across cooking this colorful, this beautifully presented, this delicious—at prices that harken back a decade or more—is astonishing.
Mood: None of Washington’s celebrated architects had a hand in the design of the interior, but no other dining room is as comfortable and as inviting. And few other settings can transform a simple, inexpensive meal into an event.
Best for: Newbies to the cuisine; old hands looking to be reawakened to the excitement of Vietnamese cooking done with flair and finesse; bargain hunters.
Best dishes: The finest shrimp toast you’ll ever eat in the area; soft, slippery rice-noodle crepes stuffed with minced wild mushrooms; expertly roasted marinated halves of quail with blood-orange slices and a lime-juice-and-black-pepper “dip”; lotus-root salad; an excellent variation on the meat-veggie-and-noodle salad known as bun.
Insider tips: Skip dessert in favor of a superlative Vietnamese iced coffee—strong, dark, and creamy.
Open daily for lunch and dinner. Inexpensive.