Hello from Dong Ha, Vietnam!
This city is definitely off the beaten tourist track. We came here to see the Vinh Moc tunnels, an extraordinary feat of engineering and far more worthwhile to visit than the Cu Chi tunnels which seems to be on every tourist flyer.
Of course the limited transport connections means that we had a considerable amount of time to try and suss out some decent chow in this two-moto town, and suss out we did.
We found a jewel of a place. The name is Tan Ngoc Sang, 07 Duong 9 - Dong Ha - Quang Tri (Nga ba ben xe) Tel: 053.853366. It's on the southwest corner of the major intersection connecting national highways 1A and 9.
Like most non-touristy Vietnamese restaurants, this is strictly a family affair. The menu is printed in both English and Vietnamese, but the prices are not inflated for tourists.
We've been there twice now. First visit-- spring rolls (meat), a small mound of perhaps 20 small (maybe 1.5") perfectly crispy, savory and all of 15,000 dong (93 cents).
Next up was a recommendation by the enthusiastic, inebriated table of patrons next to us. Fried pork and shrimp sounds boring, but was succulent and fantastic. The pork meat was actually attached to big chunks of intensely flavorful caramelized fat which I suppose you could cut away, you silly American, but the rest of the patrons would wonder why you're cutting away the best part. A few small shrimp thrown in as well, sauteed in some mystery herbs and spices making an extremely tasty yellow gravy on the plate (fantastic when mixed with rice, a plate of which costs 5000 dong or 31 cents) leading up to a juicy, very unique and intensely flavorful mouthful each time (20,000 dong or $1.25).
Next was a plate of beef and veggies, acutally the dullest star in the lineup but still flavorful and very cheap at 20,000 dong ($1.25). Sauteed beef and leafy greens in a light brown sauce, served very hot and fried with garlic. The beef here (as in most of SE Asia) is very chewy as the cows are generally allowed to roam making their muscles tighter but more flavorful.
Next a plate of sauteed veggies, of the green leafy/stalky variety similar to morning glory but not. Served intensely hot to the table with a smoky, very garlicy sauce also fantastic when mixed with rice. Total cost 8000 dong (50 cents). Top it off with a standard sized glass bottle of Pepsi for 4000 dong (25 cents) and you have a dinner for two people for about $4.00. A steal!
We returned the next day for lunch, ordering the pork and shrimp and sauteed veggies and rice, which were too good to not order again. In addition we tried the veggie spring rolls (8000 dong or 50 cents) and ordered two white iced coffees, which in vietnamese style are personally drip filtered into your cup, in which the bottom is coated with a layer of thick, sweetened condensed. Each strong cup of coffee was 5000 dong (31 cents)
If you're coming to see the Vinh Moc tunnels (and you should, they're fantastic) a stop at this place is a must.