Vietnamese Street Food At It’s Finest
One of the most extraordinary places in the city lies tucked away in plain sight: the Lunch Lady, a Vietnamese street food restaurant.
This absolute gem is somehow tucked away right in the heart of Commercial Drive, conspicuously hidden behind a cheesy mural consisting of a cliché Vietnamese street scene, with a little surprise once you look closer. Immortalized in the heart of the mural is none other than the late and great Mr. Anthony Bourdain.
Tale has it, as told to me by my mustached comrade while we talk over pho, deconstructed pork belly banh mi with local artisan bread, and a handful of bougie drinks on his side, that Anthony Bourdain discovered the persona behind The Lunch Lady on his journey through life.
While travelling Vietnam, most likely during the filming of one of his many hit travel and food television shows, Anthony came across the Lunch Lady food cart and immediately fell in love with the rich, deep, fatty flavours being slung out to the street patrons.
After falling in love with the authentic street food that Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thanh was using to bless the masses, Anthony is rumoured to have helped fund her introduction to the Western world.
Knowing the back story, you might be less confused when seeing images of the infamous chef/travel writer/television host plastered all over the restaurant.
But, I’m not here to speak of Mr. Bourdain and his involvement in this little beauty of a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. As much as I would like to write a couple of pages on my admiration for the talented chef, nobody wants to read that shit.
I’m here for the same reason you are. To discover some mind-blowing street food that’s so authentic, you’ll leave the place, forgetting that you’re still in Vancouver.
As far as Vietnamese food in Vancouver goes, there’s a lot of it. I’m not talking “a lot” like 20+ restaurants. I’m talking “a lot,” like 20+ restaurants every couple blocks. Lately, it seems that I can’t go anywhere in this city without being smacked in the face with the complex and compelling aroma of pho/beef stock punching me in the face left and right. Not that I’m complaining.
Yet, take my word for it when I tell you that this is one of, if not THE BEST, spots to stuff your face.
The menu has it all, including vegetarian, gluten-free pho with broth so rich and gelatinous that you can eat it with a fork. The collagen jelly stays hovering over the steaming liquid from the animal bones being reduced all damn morning for the meat alternatives. It’s a foodies’ true happy place.
For my breakfast, I indulged in one of the most authentic Vietnamese breakfasts, updated to please the expensive tastes of all of us Vancouver yuppies with items like thick slabs of tender pork belly and soft, creamy duck confit.
This fantastic little restaurant is open for brunch/lunch and dinner, and their daily specials are off the chain! Get your hair of the dog from their diverse drink menu, and eat away all of your sorrows at this true Vancouver masterpiece of a restaurant.
For those that are gluten-free, you no longer have to put your friends through the agony of eating at some vegetable-based, overpriced hippy gathering. The GF options at The Lunch Lady are plentiful and more than satisfying.
“IT’S LIKE DISCOVERING NEW NEIGHBOURHOODS EVERY FEW MOUTHFULS.”
Anthony Bourdain on Mrs. Thanh’s soups, No Reservations.