Those of you who have been going out of your way to hit up the Vietnamese counter in North Market need to turn around and head to Mimi's. Somebody on here mentioned that they had good banh mi, so I decided to check it out. I skipped on the banh mi and went for the pho (beef) and got an order of banh cuon to go.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Vietnamese chow, banh mi are sandwiches that have pate and head cheese and cilantro and other stuff on a baguette (more or less), pho is noodle soup (much more, actually), and banh cuon are rice flour dumplings with nuts and Vietnamese sausage, doused in diluted fish sauce.
Anyway, this place was so authentically Vietnamese it was silly. As I sat listening to cheesy Vietnamese pop music videos and contemplating the bubble tea selection, I thought to myself, the only way this place could be more legit is if it had a pool table. Well, apparently I had walked right past it on my way in.
This food was proper. The pho at North Market comes with some sliced sirloin, bean sprouts and some raggedy looking basil. Mimi's gives you meat balls, tripe, and a variety of beef cuts (I'm sure you can substitute). The broth was slightly thin and lacked anise, but still very good, and the toppings were even more than I usually get at Eden Center in Northern Virginia. And if you're at all intimidated about what to do with the food, the proprietor was really friendly and helpful, and he'll show you how to eat it like an old pro. So much better than the folks at North Market, who clearly need a little competition to sharpen them up (seriously, cafe sue da pre-made???).
The banh cuon were just as good. The nuoc cham (fish sauce) could have been a little fishier, but that's just me. I brought the banh cuon home, and my mom, who has a long list of things she doesn't like, was digging it. It was seriously good chow, so don't sleep on it. The guy needs business, and it would be a real shame if he had to close up shop.
Location: Just north of 161 on Cleveland, head east into the big ugly strip mall with the humongous thrift store. Mimi's is a couple doors in on the north side.