Kid Hit Menu Items: Some kids might be into an entire serving of Viet Noodle Bar’s rice noodle bowl ($8.50) with tofu skin, shitake mushrooms, fried shallots, soft tomato, cilantro and all. But if not, the soft rice noodles can be pulled aside. The jackfruit veggie salad‘s ($5) mix of mushrooms, fried tofu strips and jackfruit — which in this preparation (very) vaguely tastes and feels like a milder, sweeter artichoke — usually works. Or at least the rice and sesame cracker it’s served with tends to get eaten. Soup is always an option; I recommend the mild Hanoi style organic chicken pho ($9.25) or the vegan version. Bánh mì sandwiches are easy to split and share, such as the shitake and tofu, white fish, and vegan tofu basil. And as I’ve mentioned before, Vietnamese crepes ($7.25) are worth a shot.
Adult Perks: Most dishes come mild, so bottles of sriracha left out on the tables help punch things up. Jicama spring rolls are tough to bite and chew for small teeth, and the peanut dipping sauce might be off limits to some. Which is why I just keep the whole order for myself. Beverages at Viet Noodle consist of homemade soy milk and a few interesting zippy juice choices that don’t overpower the food. The beer and sake list is very small, and there’s Vietnamese coffee, of course.
Pros: The slick contemporary Viet Noodle Bar expanded a couple years ago, adding a second storefront with more seating and food prep space. Its main minimalist room is big enough for a bit of wandering, but if the natives get restless, then better to take them outside for a walk along Glendale Boulevard, or for a treat at Proof Bakery across the street if they can’t wait until after the main meal is over. The seating set-up is a combo of the signature long communal table (this was about a year ahead of just about everyone jumping on this bandwagon) and higher two-tops. The wall-mounted table that used to lined one side of the room (in other words, diners faced the wall rather than each other) was very recently removed and replaced with individual tables that are taller and don’t work with high chairs. The chairs themselves are well-cushioned and comfortable, though, and as of this week the rearranging is still in progress. Upshot is the communal table works just fine for kids, as long as you find friendly neighbors. And credit cards are now accepted!
Cons: The taller tables aren’t so great for littler ones. I love the vintage bike and motor scooter, but they can be a little TOO much fun to look at and tempting to touch. I’ve had the soyskin noodles enough times to notice some major inconsistency; for example, my last bowl didn’t have cilantro, but it was brought on the side. Every now and then it’s under-staffed and service can be a little slow. Most of the time, however, it’s quick for eat-in or take-out.
Changing Station: No
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Metered parking on Glendale Boulevard.
Other Tidbits: What started as the teeny tiny modest Soy Café on Hyperion evolved into Viet Noodle Bar. The concept really hit with the crowds in this area of Los Angeles. While the food doesn’t exactly import, say, authentic blistery chia gio from Little Saigon into Silver Lake/Atwater Village, the thoughtful menu and specialty items distinguish it from other nearby pho shops and Vietnamese restaurants. Its design-consciousness and lending library aren’t things you find in typical mid-range neighborhood joints either. Some people might dismiss the growing number of Vietnamese places as yet another L.A. food trend, but I say — bring it on. (BTW here’s an old blog post from Ritz Bites, and read this gas•tron•o•my piece for an insightful look at VNB along with Cathy Chaplin’s gorgeous photos.) Even when I THINK I’ve hit VNB burnout, I get hit with a craving again.
Update: There’s been a change in ownership, and some menu changes as well.
3133 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village
Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.