If you’re on the hunt for authentic Vietnamese cuisine with flare, look no further than Saigon Shack in Greenwich Village. While this little gem on Macdougal Street might almost qualify as a “hole-in-the-wall”, the bustling atmosphere and lines trailing out the door at lunchtime hint at something a lot more exciting than the restaurant’s modest exterior might suggest. Long time New Yorkers have likely walked by for years without realizing they had just passed one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Manhattan.

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Saigon Shack, 114 Macdougal St. Photo courtesy of Saigon Shack

In fact, the interior of exposed brick and wood is warm and inviting. Lines can get long during the day, but the extremely efficient waitstaff are practiced in the art of getting people seated in a timely manner and the Shack’s casual close quarters seem to fuel the electric atmosphere.

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S.S. Classic. Photo courtesy of Saigon Shack

This place is mainly known for its banh mi, Vietnamese-style sandwiches with ham, bacon, pate, and fresh cucumber, carrots, cilantro, daikon and mayo; the S.S. Classic and S.S. Spicy Brisket are notable standouts, but all of the sandwiches are worth a taste.

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Saigon Shack Pho. Photo courtesy of the Village Voice.

Diners also flock to Saigon Shack for its light, tasty take on traditional pho, and with 8 varieties of pho to choose from, there’s something for everybody to love, even vegetarians! Great pho and fresh, flavorful, and creative banh mi sandwiches are the cornerstones of any Vietnamese restaurant worth its salt in New York, and Saigon Shack’s offerings are both among the best.

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But the rest of the menu is amazing, too. Under appetizers/sides, you’ll find light, crispy spring rolls, and cold vermicelli noodles, as well as the famous sweet potato fries and spicy, flaky crab cakes.

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Spring Rolls. Photo courtesy of Saigon Shack

The grilled chicken bun is also very popular, and while the menu steers clear of being overbearing, it’s expansive enough to include a fried fish dish, as well as fried pork chops, and a classic duck dish, and the portions are generous.

Beat the early afternoon rush (and Saigon Shack is also a good late morning spot) and note their awesome selection of delicious coffee and tea, as well as fresh fruit juices and lemonades. In short, Saigon Shack Vietnamese Kitchen is one of my favorite New York City restaurants. Hours are from 11 am to 11pm from Sunday to Wednesday, and 11am to 1am from Thursday to Saturday. Cash only.

Written by Lance Nguyen