Over the years, Vietnamese has become my favorite of the Asian cuisines. This is in large part due to my affinity for soup. To me, there is nothing more comforting that a giant bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup. Lucky for us St. Petians, there are PLENTY of Vietnamese restaurants that are cooking up some phenomenal authentic dishes. If you’re looking for more of a traditional place where you’re likely to be among the minority, head to Pinellas Park, where there is a large Asian population. If you prefer a more upscale atmosphere? Central Ave. is the spot. With so many to choose from, I’m sharing my list of the best Vietnamese restaurants in St. Petersburg, FL.
But first, this..
Since trying new things can be scary, especially when it comes to food. Here is a little summary of the more popular dishes you will find at Vietnamese restaurants. ALL of which you need to try ASAP.
Pho (pronounced “fuh” – think of a certain curse word sans the “c-k”): A soup made with aromatic and flavorful broth (thanks to both star anise and cinnamon) with rice noodles, primarily served with beef or other parts that quite frankly, I’m too “chicken” to try. Accompaniments include bean sprouts, cilantro (or culantro), lime wedge, Thai basil, jalapeno peppers, hoisin and sriracha.
Bún (pronounced “boon”): A bowl of vermicili noodles served with a grilled meat of choice, pickled carrots and daikon, often topped with a chopped up egg roll. This dish is served with fish sauce – don’t smell it, just dump it on top and enjoy. Trust me on this.
Bánhi Mì (pronounced “bon mee”): Of French-Vietnamese origin, this sandwich is made with grilled pork, a schmear of pate + more pickled veggies, all layered on what looks like a French baguette. If made correctly, the bread is a good mix of soft and crunchy.
Okay, let’s get down to it.
Here are the Best Vietnamese Restaurants in St. Petersburg, FL:
Alesia is the only Vietnamese-French restaurant on this list and in the area for that matter. It’s rather underrated if you ask me. The pork bún is on the top of my list of things to order. Served on a skewer, be aware as you pull off chunks of meat to add to your bowl, you’re likely to lose a few to your mouth! Another reason this is one of my top spots is the ambience and hip vibe the restaurant exudes. If you like to dine al fresco, this is your place. The garden-like patio is quaint and dreamy. You won’t even realize that you’re sitting just feet away from Central Ave.
Hours: Tues-Fri 11:30am – 2:30pm (lunch) + 5:30pm – 9:00pm ; Sat 10am-2:30pm+ 5:30pm – 9:00pm; Sun + Mon – Closed
This cozy joint is a true hidden gem as it’s barely visible from the busy-ish road it sits on (62nd Ave N). There are plenty of reasons to go here but for me it’s when I want to some peace and quiet to really taste the incredible Vietnamese favorites they serve. This is one of those places I would be happy dining in alone. Also, it’s one of the places I would be willing to venture away from my normal ordering habits and take a chance on something I may have never tried before. There are an array of Vietnamese soups I’m just waiting to get my spoon in!
PHO KIEN GIANG
Hands down, this is my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in St. Pete. Actually, maybe anywhere. I once couldn’t make up my mind about which noodles I wanted (rice or egg noodles) for my soup and the waiter said, “I can just give you both.” This made my day as I am an incredibly indecisive individual. That’s not the reason I love it, though. The Pho or any of their noodle soups are like none other, mainly because of the most flavorful homemade broth. The bún bowl is excellent and so are the chicken wings. Be aware that most of the tables in this establishment are family-style, as in cafeteria-like tables that cater to families. It’s best to go with a group and try an assortment of Vietnamese delights.
LA V + THUY CAFE
Probably the most well-known Vietnamese restaurant is La V and for good reason. Other than it’s location on Central Ave right in the heart of downtown St. Pete, it’s known for freshly made top-notch food. The chic decor adds to the atmosphere making it a great place for date-night or a night out with friends. Plus, on Friday and Saturdays, they stay open until midnight! My go-to is the Bánh Mì sandwich. In fact, this is my favorite place to get one. If you’re looking to further explore the ultimate Vietnamese sandwich, head to the more casual Thuy Cafe (pronounced Twee Cafe), the (original) sister restaurant to La V, both owned by Thuy Lee (she also owns Nouvelle Beauty Bar on Central – the ultimate lady boss!). There are almost two dozen sandwiches to choose from and plenty of Boba tea.
What I love about Tasty Pho is that it’s a good cross between the casual and upscale atmosphere. Located in the plaza on Park Blvd and 49th St (a few doors down from the impressive MD Oriental Market) is the inviting eatery whose name is not deceiving; their Pho is indeed tasty. So are many of their other food items, including the banh khot (savory mini pancakes with shrimp), which is a must try if you ask me.
LOTUS VEGAN RESTAURANT
Do you love the flavors of Vietnamese cuisine but don’t eat meat? Have no fear because Lotus Vegan Restaurant has got you covered. During my days of pescartarianism (is that a word?), I would eat here once a week. Even though it’s vegan, they in no way skimp on flavor. They have a lunch buffet is and once a month have the buffet on a Saturday. The buffet is worth trying no matter if you eat meat or not!
It’s hard to believe we have so many delicious Vietnamese restaurants in our beloved town of St. Pete. How lucky are we?!
There are also plenty of great Vietnamese restaurants in Tampa that I have yet to fully experience. To name a few – Thinh An, which really impressed me on my one and only visit! Saigon Deli is a local favorite that I have not yet had the pleasure of trying. So, I have lots of exploring left to do myself!
Have you been to any of these Vietnamese restaurants? Which is your favorite?