Where We’re Eating: Vietnam


On a recent visit to one of the many hole-in-the-wall pho joints on Washington Avenue, I saw a table of large white construction workers slurping up noodles. And while there might not be anything strange about that today, things weren’t always that way. Twenty-five years ago, when Benny Lai took over Vietnam on 11th Street from his family, no one in this town who didn’t grow up on home-cooked Asian food knew a pho from a bun. Lai opened the door, making the food more accessible while getting lots of us drunk on Flaming Volcanos and other tiki concoctions. These days, there are plenty of Vietnamese restaurants in town. But Lai’s Vietnam (and the mirror-image Vietnam Cafe in West Philadelphia) remains the place for Vietnamese dinner with out-of-towners, the in-laws, etc. Order the barbecue platter (Lai’s version of the pu pu platter), salt-and-pepper fried shrimp and some of those flaming drinks, and you’re good to go. 

Vietnam [Official]

First appeared in the April, 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

Philadelphia Weekly Fail: We Meant Dave Lai, Not Benny Lai


On Wednesday morning, the new Philadelphia Weekly hit the honor boxes, with a cover story about the alt-weekly’s favorite things in Philadelphia. The cover (seen here) proudly claims Vietnamese restaurateur Benny Lai as one of those favorites, and we couldn’t agree more. Except the guy on the cover is not, in fact, Benny Lai. Read more »

David Katz Goes to the Poconos

Have no fear. Chef Katz isn’t closing Meme, packing up his clan and moving to the mountains. This weekend, he’s teaming up with Fork’s Terence Feury and Joseph Hunt of Alfa and Loco Pez (word has it that Benny Lai from Vietnam is tagging along, too) for the annual Taste of Philadelphia weekend at Skytop Lodge in the Poconos, featuring a cocktail party with the chefs on Friday and a collaborative dinner on Saturday. The cost per couple is $390 per night, which includes three meals a day and tons of Poconos-y activities like fishing, archery, hiking, and sitting in a hammock happy to be breathing mountain air.

Quick Bites: Arrow Swim Club Is Done, Ramen Boy Is Almost Here

We won’t have the Arrow Swim Club to kick around anymore. HughE Dillon reports the Northern Liberties swim club is being taken over Brian Nagele who runs the Philly2Night web site and King’s Oak on the Piazza. The new concept will be more affordable than the $1,000 memberships sold last summer. Chenango, the restaurant will be rebranded Yellow Fin Grill. [Philly Chit Chat]

Ramen Boy by the Yakitori Boy team should be open at 204 N 9th Street before January comes to an end. [Phoodie]

Benny Lai has opened Grill Fish Cafe next to his Vietnam Cafe in West Philadelphia. [Meal Ticket]

Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House is moving to bigger digs. The popular Chinatown restaurant is taking over the Pho 75 space at 1022 Race Street. [The Insider]

Interstate Draft House in Fishtown has a new chef. Julio Rivera is out and Adam Scott is in. Scott who has experience at Hawthornes and the Doylestown Country Club will make the menu a bit less Mexican. [Meal Ticket]

Pumpkin on South Street has gotten a facelift. Check out the new seating and wood panelling from reclaimed materials. Check out some photos below.

Read more »

Quick Bites: Grill Fish Cafe Coming to West Philly

Benny Lai who owns Chinatown’s Vietnam and West Philadelphia’s Vietnam Cafe is opening a third restaurant. Grill Fish Cafe will serve up Asian seafood next door to his West Philadelphia restaurant.

Chestnut7 dials up upscale pub food for Chestnut Hill. The former Solaris Grille is serving up brick oven pizzas and sub-$20 entrees nightly. Lunch and brunch will be up in the next few weeks. [Zagat]

Green Eggs Cafe is opening its third location. This one on Philadelphia’s best restaurant row at 13th and Locust. The popular bruncherie will be taking over part of the former Signatures Gentleman’s Club. No timeline is set for an opening but we presume it will be after Stateside, the bar they have under construction on Passyunk Avenue. [The Insider]

Meal Ticket gets plenty of photos of the just opened Twisted Tail on Headhouse Square. [Meal Ticket]

Jim Burke of James is back working for Stephen Starr. He’ll be in the kitchen at the New York Historical Society Museum. Starr recently won the catering contract for the 77th Street and Central Park West museum. [Meal Ticket]

Giwa’s Yong Chi is looking to open a BYOB at 1207 Walnut Street this Fall. [Philadelphia Inquirer]