You can get a good meal at this inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant if you know how to order, so stick to the dishes you see others eating. Start with a steaming bowl of spicy sweet-and-sour seafood soup (the small order is enough for three or four people) and shrimp grilled on sugarcane. Follow that up with paper-thin pork chops grilled until crisp, and crunchy deep-fried squid served on a bed of shredded lettuce with a tangy dipping sauce. If the line is long, which it usually is, you may be asked to sit at a table with strangers.
Address: 87 Baxter St., between Bayard and Canal Sts.
Phone: 212/233-S948. No credit cards.
It may be difficult to find the little elbow of a street where this basement dive is located - tell cab drivers to turn right onto Pell Street from Bowery and then left on oyers - but after one bite of the tasty, cheap, and seductive Vietnamese food you'll remember how to get back. The sweet-and-sour dressing of the green papaya and beef jerky salad is positively addictive, as are the beef cubes with watercress, or anything served in the pungent black bean sauce. Genuinely proud of their food, the staff are extremely helpful, offering advice on what to order, help in how to eat some of the unusual dishes, and clues as to what exotic ingredients make the food so good.
Address: -13 Doyers St., between Bowery and Pell St.
Phone: 232/693-0725. AE