BEST NOODLE SHOP (1998)
Start with the cilantro-laced spring rolls or bahn bao, steamed buns packed with pork, Vietnamese sausage, and egg. Cleanse the palate with a cup of cold and creamy Vietnamese coffee, then ask the guy next to you what he's slurping as a main course--there are always plenty of connoisseurs around to help you choose between clear noodles and rice noodles, sliced beef and meatballs, shrimp balls and shrimp chips. If you like a little kick in your bubbling broth, the tables are overcrowded with ready-to-spoon peppers, chilies, and fiery sauces. Our favorite: Sriracha sauce, which novices should not (but often do) confuse with ketchup. Tucked away in a nondescript strip mall adjacent to its very own Asian food market, Quang also offers spicy vegetarian salads, an unorthodox meatloaf sandwich, and for dessert a steamed banana in coconut milk that will cure you of ice cream. But when the lunchtime hunger pangs get fierce, what you really want is a big bowlful of noodles.