Food: * * * * * 5 stars
Service: * * * * 4 stars
Ambiance: * * * 3 stars
Location: * * 2 stars
Slightly camouflaged by passing cars and flashes of the brightly lit businesses on Central Avenue, stands a lone little building that is reminiscent of a fast food restaurant. There are no signs plastered on the building or the windows. A single neon ‘OPEN’ sign shines from the top of the roof. Close to the road is an old 50’s era sign simply stating the name and nature of the business. Named after a famous market in Saigon, this is Ben Thanh, one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Charlotte.
A double door entrance to the building is on the parking lot side. Down the hall of the first set of doors are the restrooms. Within the second set of doors is a large fish tank, front desk and dining area. Smooth grooves set at a comfortable volume and interesting smells begin to permeate the senses. A smiling server immediately greets guests and with menus in hand, leads the way to either booths or table.
The walls are lined with plaid valance curtained windows and pictures of flowers. Some tables are covered with tropical design tablecloths and a divider running down the length of the booths is stocked with bottles of wine and sake. Above the drink pitchers in the kitchen area hangs an interesting lobster clock. On the wall near the fish tank are “Best of -” awards and a passing sanitation grade.
A server brings glasses of water with straws and cloth napkins. Inside the napkins are chopsticks as well as a fork and spoon. The table is well stocked with various sauces and seasonings.
Although most of the employees do not speak fluent English, many of the guests speak only English. The extensive menu lists items in Vietnamese but has numbered each option and included descriptions in English to make the ordering process easier.
Start the meal with a great summer roll appetizer. For $3.75, Goi Cuon (two large shrimp summer rolls) served with peanut sauce is an option. Nuong Vi, priced at $13.95 for chicken, beef or pork and $15.95 for shrimp, is a fun choice for hungry individuals or groups. A large platter full of aromatic and flavorful ingredients is served along with rice paper and a bowl of warm water. Guests can make their own summer rolls!
Enjoy the myriad of noodle dishes and salads or try the house specials which average between $8.95 and $10.95. Play it safe with #90 (Ga Hay Bo Xao Cai) which is chicken or beef stir fried with veggies and served with steamed rice. Go bold and order the Lemongrass Curry with choice of meat and spice level-the spicier the better! This curry is served on a bed of lettuce and bean sprouts.
For dessert, opt for the $3.75 Ca Phe Den Da & Nong-a sweet, syrupy and satisfying goodness that does not arrive at the table like an average cup of joe.
Like many who frequent this nondescript location have found, take out orderers and diners alike find the food at Ben Thanh to be irresistible.
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