Ballard Gets Some Much-needed Vietnamese Food

Even when tamed, the Monkey Tree offers uniquely Southeast Asian flavors

Category: Eat + Drink Articles

 

Ballardites have long bemoaned their neighborhood’s lack of Vietnamese cuisine—cravings for anything beyond pho required going elsewhere. Not anymore: The Monkey Bridge, named for the river-spanning bridges common in rural Vietnam, opened in March in the once-stark corner space, formerly occupied by a pharmacy. The interior has been transformed into a splendidly comfortable dining room—all plum-colored walls, potted palms and carved teak furniture—and it’s been mobbed by budget-minded diners in search of banh mi and vermicelli noodle bowls; they make it tricky to find a seat at either lunch or dinner. On my visits, I nabbed spots at the bar and noshed on approachable and satisfying—if slightly dumbed down—Vietnamese classics like the house special rice noodle bowl ($8.50 at lunch), heaped with crispy egg rolls, tender grilled pork, a skewer of prawns and crunchy veggies, but dressed in a safe, timid tart-sweet dressing desperate for more pungent fish sauce. I enjoyed the fun-to-eat fried fish balls ($4) with my iced coconut milk ($3), a surprisingly light drink with pieces of coconut meat that can be fished out with a spoon. But I’ll return for the best thing I tasted in three visits to Monkey Bridge: the warm chicken banh mi ($4.50), a terrific version of the famed French-Vietnamese baguette sandwich, with plenty of fresh cilantro, shredded pickled carrots, jalapeño slivers and grilled chicken on a warm, toasted baguette. Lunch and dinner Tue.–Sun. Ballard, 1723 NW Market St.; 206.297.6048 $

Photo by Ann Nguyen

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