Saigon Shack NYC Offers a Taste of Vietnam

Budget

by Jasmine Greene

Located at 14 Macdougal Street, Greenwich Village

There are dozens of Vietnamese restaurants littered around the Manhattan, but not many offer good value and flavor together.

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Saigon Shack manages to be an exception. Located on the busy Macdougal Street, Saigon Shack is a tiny restaurant with big flavor. Regardless of what time you arrive, you likely will need to wait to get a seat as the restaurant is always full, which isn't surprising as the restaurant can only seat around 30 people.

Due to the small space, the seating is fairly intimate and you'll often find yourself rubbing elbows with your neighbor, especially at the communal table. Despite its size, the restaurant manages to include some nice touches to its interior through the use of mirrors, wooden frames on the wall and some artwork created by local artists.

The brick walls give the restaurant a rustic and warm appearance while the simple hanging lightbulbs provide a bit of modernity.

You won't need to wait too long though. Saigon Shack excels at "fast" Vietnamese food like banh mi, pho, rice and vermicelli dishes. For the most part, restaurant goers waited around 20 minutes max for a table.

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In the meantime, they were able to look at the menu and even pick out their order before they even sat down. This decreased their wait time once they did get seated and also reduces wait time for others in line. If you're not in the mood to sit and eat, you can either call for pickup or order food to go. Unfortunately, they do not offer delivery.

One of the biggest draws of Saigon Shack is its relatively low prices. $5 will get you a classic banh mi while $8 can get you a class beef pho. In fact, there are only three dishes on the entire menu over $10. Besides the classic flavors, Saigon Shack offers other options including hearty vegetarian options making this a perfect place for veggie and meat-lovers alike. They also have daily specials available so if you're not feeling anything on the menu, you might want to give them a try.

While the low prices might bring in many customers, it's really the flavors that keep them coming back. Each item offers a full flavor punch of spicy, savory and a twinge of sour. As with other Vietnamese restaurants, you are able to control the flavor profile with the addition of other condiments like sriracha and hoison sauce.

From the Vietnamese coffee to the spring rolls, all of the items on the menu are prepared fresh to order. The bread for the sandwiches manages to be crisp without being too hard. Meanwhile, the broth for the pho manages to be rich without being oily or salty. Some visitor favorites include the lemongrass chicken pho, catfish vermicelli and duck breast banh mi. Regardless of what you decide to try you'll definitely walk out satisfied.

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Besides the wait times, there is one other drawback of Saigon Shack. It is a cash only establishment. Still, you can use the time before you get seated to stop by an ATM and pull out some money. They also do not have any alcoholic options instead offering options like freshly pressed cucumber juice, Vietnamese coffee and Mighty Leaf Tea.

As almost everything on the menu is under $10 you likely won't spend more than $50 for two people even with an appetizer, meal and coffee. While those familiar with Vietnamese food might question the restaurant's authenticity, it counters this with their fresh ingredients, generous portions, cheap prices and flavorful dishes.