The Dr. and I both woke up with a hangover. We have been in New Orleans for less than two days and we’re already learning what it’s like to legally walk the streets with drinks in hand at all times of the day. Hangovers like this one call for a hot bowl of pho to calm our stomachs down and stop the pounding in our heads. Enter the town of Gretna, one of the largest enclaves of Vietnamese agricultural workers southeast of the city, on the other side of the Mississippi River.
It was the day of the Giants-Saints football game and none of the cabs we stopped were willing to cross the bridge for less than $40 round-trip. Eli Manning, who plays for the New York Giants, is a New Orleans hometown boy, so whatever the outcome was, the locals were meant to celebrate. (The Saints later destroyed the Giants.) It’s more difficult to get a return fare from small town Gretna so our grouchy cab driver tacked on a few extra dollars to our fare for disrupting his football time.
The cha gio here, or crispy spring rolls, were unlike what we usually eat in Vietnamese restaurants in New York City. They use a different kind of rice wrap that’s more thin and they bubbled up after frying. They weren’t cheap on the filling either. They were excellent wrapped in lettuce leaves and then dipped in nuoc mam, or the sweet and sour fish sauce that’s always on the table. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.
We ordered two kinds of pho to compare, one with a clear broth, and another–the Dr.’s preference–with a thick and stewy soup. Both hit the spot for sure because we nearly had to roll ourselves back to the city after eating. Of course, my eyes were hungrier than my stomach, so I ordered a plate of pork chops with rice that I ended up packing to go and eating in our hotel room later that night. The $40 ended up being worth the trip because we had the best Vietnamese food we’ve ever had outside of the island of Palawan, a Vietnamese refugee enclave in the Philippines.
Tan Dinh is at 1705 Lafayette Street right off the Belle Chasse Highway in Gretna, Louisiana. Call 504/361.8008 before you spend a hefty fare from New Orleans just to make sure they’re open.
Tan Dinh Restaurant photos on Flickr