11 standout Vietnamese restaurants in Houston to visit right now

Whether it's Viet-Cajun crawfish, pho, banh mi or bun bo Hue you seek, these Houston hot spots have it all and then some.

Mai's Restaurant has an expansive menu including banh canh and other traditional dishes.

Mai's Restaurant has an expansive menu including banh canh and other traditional dishes.

Mai Pham

As home to the third largest Vietnamese population in the U.S., it's not surprising that Houston has some of the best Vietnamese food in the country. Generations of Houstonians grew up on bowls of piping hot pho and delicious banh mi. Forty-plus years after the Vietnamese arrived here as refugees, the cuisine has become an integral part of the city's food scene.

If you've got a craving Viet-Cajun crawfish, pho or banh mi, keep reading for 10 of the best Vietnamese restaurants to try in Houston.

Spicy Viet-Cajun crawfish at Crawfish & Noodles in Asiatown.

Spicy Viet-Cajun crawfish at Crawfish & Noodles in Asiatown.

Karen Warren, Staff / Houston Chronicle

Crawfish & Noodles

A Viet-Cajun cuisine pioneer, James Beard Award-recognized Trong Nguyen developed a secret butter-garlic sauce recipe for his crawfish boils at Crawfish & Noodles. But his restaurant also offers a full Vietnamese menu that spans appetizers, noodle and rice dishes. Don't miss the finger-licking cua rang muoi salt-and-pepper blue crabs, the excellent bo luc lac shaking beef fried rice plate, or the pho dac biet, made with a silky, lightly aromatic broth that's about as good as anything you'd find in the motherland.

Find it: 11360 Bellaire Blvd. #990, Houston, TX 77072; 281-988-8098
Hours: Monday, 5-10 p.m.; Wednesday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday, 5-11 p.m.; Saturday, 12-11 p.m.; Sunday, 12-10 p.m.

Pho ga dac biet, chicken noodle soup, at Dakao Restaurant and Bar.

Pho ga dac biet, chicken noodle soup, at Dakao Restaurant and Bar.

Mai Pham / Mai Pham

Dakao Restaurant and Bar

After a recent expansion and redecoration, Dakao Restaurant and Bar—formerly Pho Ga Dakao—has become one of the busiest Vietnamese restaurants in Asiatown, so prepare to wait your turn. Once you're in, figuring out what to order from the many options can be an ordeal: appetizers, noodle bowls, chicken pho, rice plates, a family-style meal ... they have it all. The chicken dishes have an edge, but other good bets include the banh khot (mini turmeric and shrimp pancakes), the goi salads, ca kho to catfish in a clay pot and the canh chua ca sweet and sour fish soup.

Find it: 11778 Bellaire Blvd., Houston, TX 77072; 281-879-5899
Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.; Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

Caramelized tamarind wings at Dinette.

Caramelized tamarind wings at Dinette.

Dinette

Dinette

The menu at Dinette, a new modern Vietnamese restaurant from the Hando owners, is filled with must-try items. Small plates include Wagyu betel skewers, street corn ribs, and braised pork belly on crispy sweet rice. Larger plates range from a tofu mushroom curry, brisket with puffed pho noodles, or the already Insta-famous lobster and salted egg fried rice. If the menu reads well, so does the cocktail list, with playfully named drinks like the Jean-Claude Pandan or the Enjoy the Silence (a reference to the Depeche Mode song), some of which are served in cute animal-shaped glasses.

Find it: 1018 N. Shepherd Drive, Houston, TX 77008; 713-393-7134
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5-11 p.m.; Sunday, 5-10 p.m.

Huynh Restaurant in East Downtown serves authentic bun bo Hue.

Huynh Restaurant in East Downtown serves authentic bun bo Hue.

Nick de la Torre

Huynh

A beloved family-owned restaurant for well over a decade, Huynh is known for consistently putting out delicious, modestly priced, traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Their duck salad is legendary—so simple, yet so well put together, the flavors just a joy to experience. They also do a great bun bo Hue (Hue-style beef noodle soup), an excellent pho ap chao (pan-fried rice noodles), as well as beautiful rice vermicelli bowls and broken rice plates. Bonus: the $2.50-per-person BYOB policy.

Find it: 912 St. Emanuel St., Houston, TX 77003; 713-224-8964
Hours: Monday, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.; Tuesday, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.; Wednesday, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and 5-9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

The happy salad at Kau Ba combines beef, pineapple, tangerine, lemongrass, Thai eggplant, mint, peanuts, toasted rice and passionfruit sauce.

The happy salad at Kau Ba combines beef, pineapple, tangerine, lemongrass, Thai eggplant, mint, peanuts, toasted rice and passionfruit sauce.

Dave Rossman / Contributor

Kau Ba

From the green neon sign behind the bar that says "1, 2, 3…Dzo!" (Vietnamese for "Cheers!") to the stellar menu, Kau Ba is a delight. Vietnam-based chef Nikki Tran's fare is more Vietnamese food 2.0—not the stuff you grew up with, but a chef'd-up version of it. Try the FOB (Asian-speak for "fresh off the boat"), a plate of fried baby soft shell crabs served in a boat-shaped plate. Other highlights include the cured mussels, Vietnamese pizza, and truffle-tinged Wagyu banh cuon rice noodle rolls. Wash it all down with a cocktail like the Pho Loma, a Paloma-like drink of Arette reposado mixed with a shot of pho broth.

Find it: 2502 Dunlavy St., Suite B, Houston, TX 77006; 713-497-5300
Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Cari tom, green shrimp curry, at Le Colonial.

Cari tom, green shrimp curry, at Le Colonial.

Julie Soefer Photography

Le Colonial

With one of the prettiest patios in town, Le Colonial is the most upscale and glamorous Vietnamese restaurant in Houston. Culinary ambassador and cookbook author Nicole Routhier was behind the original menu, while culinary director Hassan Obaye added some French flair. The result, overseen by chef Charlie Ho, is a French-inflected Vietnamese restaurant. Begin with the crispy cha gio egg rolls and spicy beef carpaccio salad, progress to a heartier dish like the beautiful vit quay roast duck, or the show-stopping crispy whole snapper. End the evening with sexy sips in the upstairs bar and lounge.

Find it: 4444 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX 77027; 713-629-4444
Hours: Sunday-Wednesday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m.

Mai's 

Mai's is the O.G. of Vietnamese restaurants in Houston, literally. It opened in 1978 and is the oldest continuously operating Vietnamese restaurant in the city. Mai Nguyen herself, the restaurant's namesake, still works in the kitchen most nights. Like many first-generation Vietnamese restaurants, the menu is huge and has a bit of everything. Famous dishes include the bo luc lac (garlic beef), bun bo Hue (Hue-style beef noodle soup), goi ngo sen tom thit (lotus root salad with shrimp and pork) and pho. But there's more—just ask your server, or look at other tables' bounty and point.

Find it: 3403 Milam St., Houston, TX 77002; 713-520-5300

A bowl of pho dac biet with tai and side bowl of bo vien is shown at Pho Saigon.

A bowl of pho dac biet with tai and side bowl of bo vien is shown at Pho Saigon.

Melissa Phillip/Staff

Nam Giao

This restaurant is tucked on a side street away from the main Bellaire Boulevard bustle, but is absolutely worth the turn into this small strip. Nam Giao specializes in the cuisine of Hue in central Vietnam. The menu features bun bo Hue, vermicelli bowls and more, but don't sleep on the "crystal dumpling" appetizers, translucent pockets stuffed with ground pork, dried shrimp and herbs.

Find it: 6938 Wilcrest Dr, Houston, TX 77072; 281-568-8666

Pho Saigon

In the 80s, most of Houston's Vietnamese restaurants were in Midtown, but the majority have since relocated to Asiatown. Phuong and Rosie Tran, owners of Pho Saigon, have stayed put. The husband-and-wife team were resolute in keeping the original Midtown location of their first pho shop, where they serve a diverse clientele with their family-recipe beef noodle soup. They've kept prices low, and never cut corners. Phuong still buys all the spices and toasts them himself. Since he makes the broth from scratch every day using beef and bones—no powders or additives—each sip rings with authenticity.

Find it: 2808 Milam St. D, Houston, TX 77006; 713-524-3734

Thien Thanh specializes in banh cuon but has expanded its menu since its beginnings.

Thien Thanh specializes in banh cuon but has expanded its menu since its beginnings.

Yelp/Mimi R.

Thien Thanh

One of the first Vietnamese restaurants to open on Bellaire Boulevard west of the Beltway, Thien Thanh was originally a takeout spot specializing in banh cuon (steamed rice rolls). You won't go wrong with any banh cuon, be it filled with thit nuong (grilled pork) or nhan thit (minced pork). Over the years, it evolved into a full-service restaurant with regional Vietnamese specialties such as the Northern Vietnamese cha ca thang long (turmeric fish with dill), the Central Vietnamese mi quang (house-made turmeric noodles with pork and shrimp), and Southern Vietnamese bun rieu (tomato and crab rice vermicelli soup). Two people can still dine for less than $20 at this family-owned restaurant, just remember to bring cash.

Find it: 11210 Bellaire Blvd., #140, Houston, TX 77072; 281-564-0419

Xin Chào's Nguyen-er Nguyen-er Chicken Dinner is brined in lemongrass buttermilk and fried in a pandan rice flake batter.

Xin Chào's Nguyen-er Nguyen-er Chicken Dinner is brined in lemongrass buttermilk and fried in a pandan rice flake batter.

Emma Balter

Xin Chao

Xin Chao is helmed by Masterchef winner and blind chef, Christine Ha, and chef Tony Nguyen of Saigon House—both 2022 James Beard Award "Best Chef: Texas" finalists. The restaurant interprets Vietnamese food with a modern, Texas-tinged lens. Several dishes incorporate smoke, as with the smoked duck salad, smoked beef cheek dumplings in bun bo Hue sauce, or the smoked beef rib flat rice noodles. There are Viet-Cajun Gulf oysters roasted with Nguyen's H-town bang sauce, not to mention a fantastic lemongrass buttermilk fried chicken called the Nguyen-er Nguyen-er chicken dinner. Pair them with a frozen Pandan Colada or the new Go Bananas tiki-themed cocktail made with banana rum, creme de banana, coconut and cinnamon.

Find it: 2310 Decatur St., Houston, TX 77007; 832-740-4888

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