Selecting Riverfront Times' Best of St. Louis 2011 was no picnic. Choosing the winner meant several worthy candidates would go unmentioned -- until now. In this Gut Check series, we are chewing our way through notable runners up in a number of categories. To see hundreds more winners and finalists and download the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis mobile app, visit our Best of St. Louis homepage.
In 2011, our "Best Vietnamese Restaurant" also happened to be St. Louis' oldest Vietnamese restaurant. This was no legacy award. It stood out among very, very strong competition.
5. Little Saigon Café (10 North Euclid Avenue; 314-361-8881)
This Central West End mainstay balances favorites like pho tai (beef noodle soup) and goi cuon (spring rolls) with more ambitious -- and, yes, more expensive -- dishes like sauteed prawns with asparagus and salmon cooked in a hot pot. Be sure to try the cha Saigon, fried spring rolls with a crisp (but not greasy) exterior.
4. Pho Long (8629 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-997-1218)
Is it fair to include a restaurant that serves little more than variations of one dish in this list? When that dish is pho and the restaurant is Pho Long, the answer is yes. The pho here is incredible, the broth so deeply flavored that the usual additions (basil, lime, etc.) are hardly necessary -- though, of course, you can and should doctor the dish to your liking. Pho Long caters to novice and aficionado alike, with basic beef pho as well as soup loaded with tripe and tendon.