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Great food on a budget in Da Nang (part 1)

Monday, December 25, 2017, 16:02 GMT+7
Great food on a budget in Da Nang (part 1)
Bò lúc lắc-bánh mì version

As a foodie and a nomad on a budget, I’m always on the lookout for quality local food at the right price wherever I go in Vietnam.

It’s easy to find good food in fancy settings if you’re willing to pay Western prices, but the challenge is to dig out that little hole-in-the-wall place that serves up the best local food at decent prices. 

Here we’ll focus on that lower end but I’ve included a few nicer restaurants specializing in foreign food just to give you a few more options.

Da Nang is an interesting food destination because thanks to its central location, it features many local dishes as well as both northern and southern specialties.

The city boasts a beach setting at My Khe which is geared to the more affluent tourist while the city center, Hai Chau District, caters to locals and seasoned foreign travelers.

We’ll cover the area between the Han River and Dragon Bridges from Bach Dang along the riverside to Phan Chau Trinh Street, which is about five blocks west of the river. 

Of course that’s just a small sampling from such a large city, but if you’re in the center, especially on foot, you can walk to all these delightful eating places.

Tran Phu Street, parallel to and one block west of the riverside promenade Bach Dang, has food options to fit all budgets. Generally this street is higher-priced but there are a few gems.

1. Star Beef, at 64 Tran Phu near Le Duan Street and the Han River Bridge, has a little bit of everything starting with cơm bò lúc lắc (diced beef in a magnificent sauce pictured below) served with baguette or delicious baked rice and all the fixings priced at VND50-60k. Full-sized Australian steaks range from VND180k to VND250k. You can’t go wrong with Star Beef, and it’s air-conditioned for those hot summer days.

2. Around the corner at 14 Phan Dinh Phung there is an excellent cơm gà (chicken rice) restaurant called Babi, which serves homemade barbecued chicken together with orange fried rice. Prices range from VND30k to VND50k.

3. That same shop doubles as a soup kitchen from the early morning until 8:30 am or 9:00 am, serving traditional phở (beef noodle soup), bún bò Huế (pork and beef noodle soup), and mì Quảng (the local specialty turmeric noodles with pork, chicken, quail eggs). They serve a beautiful fish version mì Quảng cá lóc also. Every fortnight when locals commemorate the passing of loved ones by eating vegetarian, they serve mì Quảng chay – the vegetarian version pictured below. Out of this world! All go for VND20k.

Mì Quảng chay
Mì Quảng chay

4. Just across Phan Dinh Phung Street you’ll find Phố Xưa, which looks more like a Buddhist temple than a restaurant, an up-market choice with phở going for VND60k. Dinner options include grilled squid, pork ribs, and special hot/sour fish soup, all over 100k per serving.

5. At number 11 Phan Dinh Phung you’ll find an excellent rice shop called Áo Bà Ba featuring beautiful lunch goodies at the steam table. Get there early as it’s overwhelmed by office workers around 11:30 to 12:30 each weekday.

6. Further up Phan Dinh Phung at number 26 is the local champion of Vietnamese steak and eggs, absolutely not to be missed. Quốc Minh Bò Né (bò né means steak and egg skillet) is a great experience but be ready for crowds if you go on the weekends. They serve until late in the morning or noon each day.

Bò né and Marinated meatballs
Bò né and Marinated meatballs

7. Back onto Tran Phu heading north you’ll come across Bún Xương at number 89, which specializes in several types of beef and pork soup priced between VND30k and 40k. They have a dynamite rice lunch table from VND25-40k depending on what you choose. But go early, they’re usually sold out before 1:00 pm because of early-dining office workers.

Marinated meatballs
Marinated meatballs

8. At the Han Market intersection on Huong Vuong Street heading toward Bach Dang and the river is a Korean favorite bánh mì shop called Bánh Mì AA. The bánh mì prices are way on the high side at VND40-50k but the shop is air-conditioned, so perfect for hot days.

9. Right next door is Retro Kitchen featuring foreign food at foreign prices. They do serve pasta options at VND100-120k but most of the entrees are well over VND200k.

10. Following along Tran Phu Street south beyond the Han Market on the other side is Al Fresco’s at number 178, an Italian-run pizza joint. Pizzas are about VND240k, a tad sweet to cater to local tastes, but it’s a pleasant and professional experience with good service and food.

11. Just a couple of doors down at 182 Tran Phu is Kim Dy, a tiny little cafe with only six tables, but they serve interesting soups and dishes with a Chinese flair such as wonton and duck soups in the VND50-70k range.

12. Across the street and left of Kim Dy at 191 Tran Phu is a quirky little hole in the wall called Bún Thịt Nướng Nga. They serve magnificent bún thịt nướng (barbecued pork and chicken served with vermicelli noodles, a mountain of fresh greens, sprinkled with peanuts and a peanut sauce for only VND20k), with the tables and stools very low to the ground for an intimate Vietnamese dining experience.

Bún thịt nướng
Bún thịt nướng

Rick Ellis

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