Budget Beat: Da Vang

By Jay Bennett

Outside of scarfing down Jack in the Box or raiding the dollar menu at McDonald's, it just doesn't get any cheaper than this: For $10.38, the missus and I scored at Da Vang.

That's right. For $10.38, we enjoyed two entrees and an appetizer at this Vietnamese hole in the wall on 19th Avenue south of Camelback Road.

It was easy in, easy out at Da Vang as we made our way down to the U.S. Airways Center for that Walking with Dinosaurs: The Live Experience show. I recommend the show if it ever comes 'round these parts again. The dinosaurs were big and lifelike and roared a lot. Money well-spent.

I also wholeheartedly recommend Da Vang for tasty Vietnamese eats. For starters, we enjoyed an order of goi chon, which consisted of two BIG spring rolls stuff with shrimp, thinly sliced pork, rice noodles, sprouts and mint. Dipped in Da Vang's fabulous soy peanut sauce, the goi chon were a light and outstanding treat. Price: $2.50.

Goi chon: Light, tasty, and good for dipping.

For her entree, the missus ordered bun tom nuong, a serving of rice stick noodle, grilled shrimp, vegetables, crushed peanut, fish sauce, along with some mint and cilantro. For me, those particular herbs hit the dish out of the ballpark. She also drizzled some of the aforementioned soy peanut sauce over the noodles and mixed it all up. Good idea, sweetie. Price: $5.50.

Bun tom nuong: What's Vietnamese for "excellent"?

What we also liked about the dish was the perfectly sized bowl in which it was served. It was like the a bowl you might use at home — you know, to eat a normal portion. It wasn't a mega-serving that you'd likely get at most places. Who wants to leave a restaurant with a doggy bag full of Vietnamese food that sits and roasts in your car while you watch fake dinosaurs gallivant around a basketball arena?

I opted for the bahn mint bi, a typical Vietnamese sandwich served on French bread. I'd never had bahn mi before moving to Arizona. Now, I can't get enough of them. The first one I'd ever had was at the superlative sandwich shop Lee's, in Chandler. The one at Da Vang wasn't quite as good, but I still dug it a lot. It had a little bit of shredded pork on it, as well as cilantro, carrots, and cucumbers. Light and tasty. It's not going to keep you full for long, but it makes for a nice, small dinner. Price: $2.25.

Bahn mint mi: A scrumptious little sammie. (Photos by Laura Hahnefeld)

Da Vang is clean, quick, and cheap. And, of course, the food is dynamite. I hope you check it out. And if you do, let me know what you thought at jay.bennett@newtimes.com. And, as always, if you've got some swell ideas on where to dine of the cheap, holla.

Da Vang 4538 North 19th Avenue 602-242-3575 Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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