112 W. Elder St.
This cheerfully cozy Vietnamese restaurant, located in the Market District Shops of Findlay Market, is a vegetarian's dream. Five of the 13 menu items are vegetarian-friendly, and three of those choices are completely vegan!
While the names of the dishes are not easily pronounceable nor as recognizable as those of other ethnic eateries, the descriptions are clear and the Vietnamese food dictionary on the bottom of the menu is a handy reference guide. If you are unsure about something, just ask; the friendly servers are happy to help.
The menu is broken down into sections: starters, salads, sandwiches (banh mi), rice noodle soup (pho), and rice vermicelli noodles (bun). The vegan option on the starters section is goi cuon chay (vegan mixed salad roll), which consists of fresh tofu, crimini mushrooms, pickled white radish and carrots (known as do chua), and fresh cilantro wrapped in rice paper for only $3. The rolls are a little bland on their own, but with a touch of the accompanying peanut-hoisin dipping sauce they absolutely sing with flavor.
Other vegan selections include pho chay (rice noodle soup - $5/small $6.50/large $8.50/extra large) and goi bap cai chay (salad served in a toasted black sesame rice paper bowl - $6).
While the vegetarian bun chay (vermicelli noodles with fried tofu - $7) sounded very tempting, I chose instead the banh mi chay ($6), a soft French baguette lightly smeared with a very tasty garlic butter mayo and stuffed with lightly fried tofu, do chua, cucumber, and cilantro. It's a wonderfully light combination of flavors, especially the melt-in-your-mouth tofu, which is nothing like the heavily fried, chewy kind one finds at area Chinese restaurants. Superb.
My friend chose the bun thit nuong, comprised of rice vermicelli noodles and your choice of beef, chicken or pork in a large bowl of lettuce, bean spouts, cucumber, fresh herbs and crushed peanuts, with a side dish of sweet and sour fish sauce for pouring over. The difference between the vegetarian and meat version of this dish is the substitution of fried tofu for the meat, and sweet and sour mushroom soy sauce instead of fish sauce.
Pho Lang Thang also serves imported Vietnamese coffee, soybean milk and an incredibly sweet limeade called da chanh. They are open Tuesday through Sunday at 9 a.m. for coffee; food service begins at 11 a.m. What a welcome addition to the neighborhood!