While North Carolina weather carries on being as unpredictable as ever, the few chilly days we have left ahead warrant an excuse to indulge in a few winter-esque activities — crockpot-cooking, trips to a brewery for a hearty lager and ordering in. COVID-19 pandemic times draw emphasis to the latter, with more and more restaurants offering carryout options.
But when you’re tired of pizza or burgers, there’s a whole community of Vietnamese cuisine that’s worth exploring.
Steve Ly, co-owner of Cilantro Noodle, a family-run build-your-own noodle bar in the heart of Plaza Midwood, prides his restaurant on its ability to let customers build their pho noodle soup the way they want, without sacrificing the integrity of the noodle soup that’s a staple in Vietnamese cuisine.
“We pride ourselves on Pho,” Ly said. “Nobody does what we do — letting you build your bowl the way you like.”
“People come here because of the environment. We created a fast-casual restaurant where customers can look at a kiosk and see what we offer,” Ly said.
“Customers have the choice of a quick meal, if you don’t have time to sit down for a bowl of soup. A vermicelli (thin rice noodle) dish can be ready in a couple of minutes.”
For a more traditional experience, the legendary Pho Hoa on Central Ave is counted among the best.
“What we strive for is consistency,” owner Cuong Phan said of the family-run restaurant. “I try to be as consistent as possible. We’ve had the same flavors for 24 years.”
Giving the community amazing food has always required great care. “When we decided to open up, it was a big jump, but in the end we got lucky. And we persevered,” he said.
While there are many Charlotte-area Vietnamese restaurants, here’s a list of some that are particularly delicious:
11318 N. Community House Road
As a fast and casual eatery in Ballantyne, Be’s Noodle & Banh Mi offers quick eats like Crispy Vermicelli Noodle Buns and Lemongrass Pork Banh Mi sandwiches, as well as warm and cozy noodle soups. The restaurant offers both dine-in seating and carryout.
What to get: Sliced Filet Mignon Pho (Pho Tai)
2001 Commonwealth Ave.
This build-your-own noodle bar in the heart of Plaza Midwood is the perfect solution for the picky eater who wants healthy options. The menu includes the traditional favorites too such as Pho Dac Biet, which is a pho noodle soup comprised of eye round steak, beef brisket, meatballs and braised short ribs. Tasty side offerings include items like Cilantro Chicken Wings, fried egg rolls and sweet potato tater tots.
The restaurant offers dine-in, and takeout and delivery via Uber Eats, Postmates, DoorDash, GrubHub and its website. On Wednesdays, kids eat free with the purchase of an adult meal (pickup or dine-in).
If you’re hungry for more, try their sister restaurant, Ocha Time Tea, located right next door. The Boba and tea options are the perfect follow-up to a savory meal at Cilantro Noodle. Try the vanilla or matcha self-serve iced cream in taiyaki — a fish-shaped cone. Other treats include items like rolled ice cream, and fruit teas.
What to get: Build-Your-Own Vermicelli Bowl
Cost: $8.50 – $9.95 (plus $2 protein)
3019 Shamrock Drive
This Vietnamese restaurant is a Charlotte favorite with a dedicated following, even during COVID-19 times, with a menu that includes traditional favorites such as pho, fresh summer rolls and vermicelli noodle dishes. The restaurant offers carryout and is now open for dine-in.
What to get: Pho Dac Biet
4520 N. Tryon St.
A Charlotte legend and hidden gem, Le’s specializes in the Banh Mi – a Vietnamese sandwich on a crispy yet simultaneously soft baguette. Customers can choose from a variety of meats and veggies as stuffing for this classic. This eatery is takeout only, perfect for COVID-19 times.
What to get: #6 Grilled Pork Sandwich
3000 Central Ave., Suite 1
Pho Hoa Noodle Shop, a Charlotte favorite since its opening 24 years ago, is the place to go for a traditional take on Vietnamese Cuisine, especially Pho Noodle Soup. And with menu categories such as Adventurer’s Choice, it’s impossible to get bored. To satisfy the sweet tooth, give one of its bubble teas a try. The restaurant offers both dine-in seating and carryout for an increased socially distanced experience.
What to get: Pho Tai, Nam, Gau, Gan, Sach (#15)
Cost: $9.75 (Regular) $10.99 (Large)
440 E. McCullough Drive
This University-area Pho restaurant serves pho, Hu Tieu (a noodle soup made from chicken, pork, and seafood-based broth, and other classic dishes. Dine-in, pickup and delivery are available.
What to get: Hu Tieu Xao (stir fry rice noodle)
1226 Central Ave
Nothing is more soothing on a wet and soggy day than something warm and savory. Warmack Asian Restaurant is new to the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, and offers Asian comfort food inspired by the owner and Executive Chef’s childhoods. Dine-in, online-ordering, and curbside pickup available.
What to get: Fuzzy’s Braised Pork Bowl