Vinh Loi Restaurant in the Bailey’s Crossroads section of Falls Church has been building a clientele of regular “pho-natics” for eight years. One customer shared she’d just traveled from Fredericksburg, where she lives, for her “usual” on the day this writer ventured in. But it’s not just the Vietnamese beef noodle soup that has patrons traveling from near, and far, for more.
Friendly-faced waiter Young Lam, who’s been working there for three years, can be found at the restaurant on any given evening. And lucky for patrons new to the soup scene, he’s not the least bit judgmental of those wondering the difference between this “so-called flank, brisket and … bible tripe?” (That last one’s from the third compartment of a mammal’s stomach for those wondering. Apologies.) Regulars even gushed they come back because Lam “always remembers [their] orders.”
Halfway through this excursion, and halfway through a mountain of savory vermicelli (we’ll cover this later), yet another woman was returning to Vihn Loi for dinner.
“Remember what I had for lunch today? I’ll take that,” she told Lam, who swiftly put her order in.
Narrative recollections aside, Lam told the News-Press, “Some people come in here two or three times a week.”
That was evident – but they return with good reason.
Serving up a humbly-sized menu of Vietnamese staples ranging from pho soup to rice plates, Vinh Loi skips the bells and whistles and goes straight to the heart of the matter: comfort food in a frills-free environment.
Though Lam said the restaurant sees more foot traffic on cold winter nights, there’s something about Vinh’s monstrous portions, endless “fixings” and no one rushing you out the door that says, “Come. Stay awhile.” Oh … and binge on amazing Vietnamese fare.
Needless to say, snowfall or not, this writer’s never found Vinh Loi empty. And, even better, it’s never been too packed to snag comfortably-spaced seats, which are set up around six long cafeteria-style tables.
One-size helpings of pho (above, top right) will run diners $7.25 a head, with various combinations of eye-round steak, tendon, brisket, flank and bible tripe meat. There’s also chicken, meatballs, vegetable and seafood versions of the noodle soup up for grabs. Accompanying every bowl of pho is a heaping plate of crunchy bean sprouts, mint leaves, sliced jalapeños and lime wedges. Then there’s, of course, a lazy susan atop each table with about seven go-to condiments, the standout being Huy Fong Sriracha Hot Chile Sauce. With this many choices and so many ways to dress it, it’s no wonder pho is Vinh Loi’s most popular menu item, said Lam. He added that customers have said it’s a “less greasy” pho compared to other area restaurants serving the soup.
The Bun Ga Nuong Xa ($7.25) is grilled lemon-grass chicken on rice vermicelli (above, center), mixed in with shallots, cucumbers, carrots and lettuce. However, the fish sauce that accompanies this entrée is what makes it. The sweetness to it makes the chicken go from simply grilled to savory satisfaction. Let’s just say this is a downward spiral to over-indulgence. For those with more will power, there are to-go boxes. And, frankly, diners shouldn’t expect to leave Vinh Loi without one.
Approaching a decade of service, Vinh Loi in Falls Church has the comfort food, friendly service and laid-back environment to keep it open for another eight-year stretch and then some.
Vinh Loi Restaurant
5811 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church
Monday – Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.; Sunday, 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.