Suck on our salty meatballs, A.A. Gill.

Cincinnati Bites
Shrimp and Grits from SmoQ

Posted Monday, January 3, 2011

We've tried several times to get a seat at the newly opened and ultra-hip Pho Lang Thang, without success. Be it poor timing or blind luck, we've not been there at a time when there wasn't at least a 30-minute wait or a shortage of a key ingredient. And while it's great this Findlay Market business is getting showered with an abundance of foodie love, I'm reminded that it's not the only Vietnamese player downtown.

As reported seven months ago by Polly Campbell and TJ Jackson, the Banh Mi sandwiches have been readily available at tiny Le's Cafe, located inside the Main Library, before Pho Lang Thang was but a mere scribble in an ambitious business plan.

Banh Mi from Le's Cafe

If you've never tried a Banh Mi, you'll find it quite a unique experience, one you'll either savor or despise. This "Vietnamese Po' Boy" is a working man's staple, served on a crusty baguette, offering a one-two flavor punch of hearty meat and spicy vegetables and a fragrant, cilantro finish.

Le's Cafe offers the 6-inch Banh Mi for just three dollars; you can get a foot-long for five. Stick that in your sub and smoke it, Jared.

The other downtown favorite of mine, one that gets virtually zero Twitter or Facebook love, is simply called, "Orient." You can find the unassuming Asian restaurant at 627 Main Street, across from Izzy's and Penn Station.

The decor at Orient is minimal: some (possibly plastic) potted plants line the front window and the dining room consists of about seven or eight worn booths. Not exactly sexy or Twitterific. When an order is placed, Caucasian patrons usually don't get much in acknowledgment from the owner beyond, "okay," but what he lacks in conversation, he amply makes up for in food.

Pho (aka 'Beef Noodle Soup') from Orient
Fortune cookie fortune from Orient

The menu includes a mixture of Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese items. I eat there year round, but when winter hits, I especially yearn for Orient and its great Pho. A generous bowl comes filled with long, wispy rice noodles and thin, slightly pink slices of beef, still cooking in the hot, fragrant broth. Sprouts, jalapeno slices, green onions and a carousel of not one, not two, not three...but FOUR types of hoisin and chili sauces of varying heat accompany the bowl, allowing you to season the Pho to suit your distinctive palate.

So until the Pho Lang Thang buzz quiets down a bit and the Tweeters move on to the next new, hip thing, remember: you've got a couple tasty Asian alternatives.

Orient on Urbanspoon

Price: Cheap (under $11 per person)
Service: Good
Rating: 3.0 out of 43.0 stars

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Ratings Legend
four stars = Outstanding
three stars = Good
two stars = Fair
one star = Poor
  • From Cincinnati Bites about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    Thanks for writing, Heather. I definitely like their other restaurants. Lalo's pazole and fish taco are better than Mazunte's, I think. But I agree they are definitely hit-or-miss. I'm still rooting for them, though. There's talent there. :)

    posted: Mon., Nov 20th, 2017 @ 1:30 PM
  • From Heather JOhnson about Dope! Noodle and Dumpling Shop:
    I tried Huit & Lalo and they were both expensive and so mixed - one thing great - another thing barely mediocre. More of the same it sounds like - hits and misses for a really expensive lunch. Nope on Dope.
    posted: Sun., Nov 19th, 2017 @ 12:41 PM
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    I do not know if it is truly a match for the product you remember, but Frostop Root Beer is sold at Jungle Jims and is a personal favorite of mine.
    posted: Fri., Sep 29th, 2017 @ 6:00 PM
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    As a long time reader, I found this review to be one of your loveliest and most enthusiastically vivid. I can't wait to try this place!
    posted: Tue., Aug 29th, 2017 @ 9:48 AM
  • From Jordan about Grand Central Delicatessen:
    posted: Sat., Jun 3rd, 2017 @ 12:16 PM
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    Haha, love your comment: " If you were deemed "different" in high school, dressed "weird" or regularly got beat up only to go on to have a decidedly higher net worth and confidence level than the rest of your abusive, judgmental peers, Northside is your home away from home." I know I saw a Groupon for Tickle Pickle recently - might have to check if that's still available!
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:33 PM
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    This is definitely going on the list. Thanks for posting. Do they also have margaritas?
    posted: Fri., Apr 14th, 2017 @ 12:23 PM
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    This is Israeli couscous, the super tiny stuff is Moroccan. I personally prefer the Israeli (also known as "pearl".)
    posted: Fri., Mar 24th, 2017 @ 4:28 AM
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    We really love having Chilango so close to us in the Kings area!!! We have gone a few times and you are right - the Chicken Tinga is the best chicken taco you can get in Cincinnati!!! Thanks for reviewing this little neighborhood gem!
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