Vietnam Cafe … Serious, Affordable, Quality Vietnamese Cuisine in KC


Vietnam Cafe
522 Campbell Street
Kansas City, MO 
(816) 472-4888
Price: $$$$$

Vietnam Cafe is hands-down the BEST VIETNAMESE RESTAURANT IN KANSAS CITY! A small, clean, unassuming diner-type building in the old Little Italy section near River Market, they have great, authentic Vietnamese food at very reasonable prices.


We started with the Vietnamese egg rolls (4 – $5, you have to ask for them specifically) which are only different from regular egg rolls in that you get lettuce leaves to wrap them in and cilantro, mint leaves (if available), and sliced carrots to add inside the lettuce as well as a spicy rice vinegar dipping sauce … YUM!

I had the beef curry and my wife had the vegetarian pho. Both were excellent although the curry was not of the variety of Vietnamese curry that I am used to (a thick red curry with mostly beef). The pho, my wife’s favorite, was chock full of veggies and as tasty as we have had.

The staff are very friendly and helpful and the restaurant is extremely clean. It is not a huge place, but we had no difficulty getting a table. The neighborhood looks a bit dodgy, but we have never had any problems either at Vietnam Cafe or Garrozo’s which is not far away.

CombatCritic Gives Vietnam Cafe 8 Out Of 10 Bombs for good food and service at a GREAT VALUE … BOMBS ARE GOOD!



Vietnam Cafe on Urbanspoon



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Key Words: Vietnam Cafe, Vietnam, cafe, Vietnamese, pho, curry, noodles, egg roll, egg, roll, Kansas City, Missouri, MO, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Yelp, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor

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Try "1006 Pho" Pho A Good, Reasonably Priced Bowl Of Goodness


Tofu Pho ($7.99)
This restaurant just opened in place of Wild Pho, another Vietnamese pho restaurant that recently closed. According to the server, the new owner, a very nice woman, apparently used to be connected to either Wild Pho or the space itself. Anywho, we thought we would give them a try considering they are so close to our home.

I asked if they had Vietnamese egg rolls, but the server did not know what I was talking about, so I asked the owner and she told me “no problem”. At $5 for four (4) pork egg rolls accompanied by lettuce leaves, sliced carrot, cilantro (no mint leaves), and a dipping sauce of rice vinegar and seasonings of unknown, but tasty origins, they were excellent or as Tony the Tiger would say “they’re grrrrrrrrrreat!” 

Steak Pho ($7.99)

My wife had the Tofu Pho. A “regular” is $7.99 and plenty big, but you can get a “large” for $9.99). The tofu is the same price as the meat (steak, meatball, chicken, shrimp, tendon?) pho and comes in a vegetarian broth option for an extra $1.50. 


I tried the Steak Pho (regular – $7.99) with veggie accompaniments and Sriracha OF COURSE! Extra meat is $1.99, which I ordered, but apparently did not get and was not charged for. No biggy because I was plenty full on the delicious broth, abundant noodles, a little sliced beef, and extra vegetables (no charge), including bean sprouts, sliced jalapeño, and cilantro.

They are updating the menu and a few dishes will not make the cut apparently, including the calamari, but if the pho was any indication of the quality and value of the meals, we will be back soon and provide an updated review as we try new dishes.


CombatCritic Gives 1006 Pho 7 Out of 10 Bombs (with room to grow) … BOMBS ARE GOOD!

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Key Words: 1006 Pho, 1006 Massachusetts, 1006, Massachusetts, street, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044, pho, Vietnam, Vietnamese, food, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, Thai, noodles, egg roll

Zen Zero Update … Quality, Reasonable Thai and Nepalese Cuisine in Downtown Lawrence


Zen Zero

811 Massachusetts St
Lawrence, KS 66044
Phone: 785-832-0001
Fax: 785-841-8759
Hours:  
Sun-Mon  11AM – 9PM
Tue-Sat     11AM – 10PM

Email: zenzerolaw@sbcglobal.net
Crunchy Thai Chip Basket

Restaurants in downtown Lawrence are not necessarily well known for their value. Rents are high on and around Massachusetts Street, so most food is overpriced, particularly based on the quality of said, which in this case is not necessarily a positive thing. We have tried several, including The Mad Greek, Teller’s (now closed), Rudy’s Pizza, La Parrilla, Cielito Lindo, La Familia, Fuzzy’s Tacos, India Palace, The Casbah, and Curry in a Hurry to name a few, and with the exception of the last four, have yet to find great food and true value … UNTIL NOW!

Fried Pork Momos with Two Sauces

My wife had heard that Zen Zero was good and had I known it was a Thai restaurant, I would heave tried it sooner. I love Thai, Vietnamese, and Korean cuisine thanks to their abundant use of exotic and flavorful spices, particularly curry, so when I heard Zen Zero was a Thai restaurant, I eagerly agreed to give it a try.


The decor is modern, yet cozy with hints of zen influence in select pieces of art on the walls and construction with warm Earth-tone colors and an open kitchen emitting sounds, smells, and flames as chefs prepare meals in view of customers.  The server arrived with a complimentary basket of Asian rice chips, light and crunchy, likely a rice-based starter, which are tasty but an accompanying sauce to dip in would be nice.  There are soy sauce and an Asian-style chili sauce on the table, so you can easily make your own dipping condiment, but a creative and inexpensive accompaniment would be an added bonus.

Sunday night is Zen Zero night in our house and draught beer is on special for $3.00 a (American) pint. Not a huge selection, a pale ale, a wheat, and a seasonal (Oktoberfest, Irish Red), I ordered the Oktoberfest (normally $4.00), but the server quickly told me they were out, so I went for the pale ale (normally $3.75).

Chicken Spring Rolls

The App (appetizer) Sampler ($7.29) which came with two steamed veggie momos (a tasty Tibetan dumpling), two chicken satay (grilled chicken on a stick accompanied by peanut sauce) and two fried tofu triangles. It took quite a while for our appetizer to arrive considering the restaurant was only about half full, but I enjoyed a pint of pale ale ($2.50 – normally $3.75) while waiting. The appetizer was relatively small, arriving on a plate smaller than our dinner plates at home, and left me hungry for more. It would have been enough for one person, but there were two of us, so we each had one momo, one satay, and one tofu each. The momo (Himalayan dumplings with charred tomato and spicy sesame chutneys served steamed) would have been better fried, an option when ordering the momo appetizer, but not on our sampler platter, and was delicious, but it was consumed in just two bites (I could have easily handled it in just one). A steamed dumpling the size of a fortune cookie filled with veggies and served with sweet and sour sauce, momos are likely better deep fried.  

The Fried Pork Momos ($4.79) are much tastier and less healthy than the steamed variety, coming with four dumplings and two sauces, a mildly spicy red tomato chutney and an almost white sauce that reminded me of very well-blended hummus.  The Fried Chicken Spring Rolls ($4.29) come with a sweet and spicy sauce infused with chili peppers, but for the price I would expect more than two, both of which were consumed post haste.  They were savory and crunchy, containing cabbage, bean sprouts, and a few other unknown vegetables, and, beside the small portion, they were also excellent. The chicken satay ($4.99) is also good with four skewers of grilled chicken accompanied by a decadent peanut sauce and zesty onion and cucumber relish.


Phad Phak Ruam Mitr

My wife ordered a vegetarian dish, Phad Phak Ruam Mitr ($7.29), a mixed vegetable stir-fry with broccoli, onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, snow peas, Napa cabbage, scallions, baby corn and tofu and served with Jasmine rice. It was light and delicious, not too spicy for an Italian not used to eating hot and spicy foods (penne arribiatta is as hot as it gets in Italian cuisine). The vegetables were fresh and crisp, and the sauce light yet complex enough to satiate the palate.


Massaman Curry
I absolutely love curry and Zen Zero’s Massaman curry ($7.69), a coconut curry from Southern Thailand with potatoes peanuts (Sorry NO Pork Option with this Curry), was THE BOMB! Having ordered mine with the customary beef, the curry was scrumptiously rich and perfectly seasoned. A thick red curry, Massaman comes with tofu or meat (other than pork) and potatoes and peanuts in a huge bowl served with Jasmine rice. Not abundant in the beef department, I was not disappointed because the thick curry sauce was probably the second best I have ever eaten (the best was at a small Vietnamese restaurant in Palos Verdes, California back in the late 1970s) … SUPERB!

Green Curry ($7.69) with Beef ($2.69)

On our next visit I wanted to try the Green Thai Curry ($7.69 – green curry with bell peppers, eggplant, and bamboo shoots), but I hate bamboo shoots because they have the consistency of Styrofoam and zero taste, so I asked the server (Zana) if I could substitute potatoes.  Yellow and green Thai curries are excellent and normally are served with chicken, pork, or beef (chicken is the norm) with potato and peas, so I was dismayed when I saw bamboo shoots as an ingredient. Bamboo shoots and water chestnuts, another dreaded ingredient, are usually found in Chinese cuisine, not Thai, so I thought potatoes would be a rather benign request. 

I was told that there would be a $1.00 up-charge for substituting potato for bamboo shoots!  Considering the fact that potatoes are one of the cheapest staples in the produce department and much more pricey than an equal weight in potatoes, I declined and simply asked for the dish minus the water chestnuts and plus beef ($2.69 extra).  The green curry was delicious, spicy enough for the pallet but not too much for my acid reflux.  The bell peppers (red and green) were a bit too crunchy (raw) for my taste, but the dish was excellent. The “Jasmine” rice, which accompanies most dishes, seems to be merely white rice because I could neither taste nor see any hints of Jasmine.  The beef, which I paid nearly $3.00 extra for, consisted of 3 or 4 pieces of thinly sliced beef and 1-2 inches in length, nearly non-existent.  If there had been MORE MEAT, the dish would have been perfect, beside the fact that a couple of chunks of potato would have also been nice!

Phad Thai


The Phad Thai ($7.29), a classic Thai stir-fry with rice noodles, eggs, bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro and peanuts in a mild red curry sauce, was robust and delicious.  Looking much like an Italian pasta dish, it had nothing else in common with Italian cuisine other than the noodles, and was perfectly seasoned.  The vegetables were well cooked and not raw, the dish was sprinkled with small chunks of peanuts and stir-fried in a mild red curry sauce, for a vegetarian dish it was scrump-diddly-umptious!

The Dry Chicken Curry Thakali-style ($8.99) is a traditional Nepalese curry made with onions, ginger, garlic, garam masala and tomato, served with jasmine rice, rahar ko dal (yellow lentils) and potato achar. The achar sat atop the dish and was oddly cold, so I asked the server if that was the intention and it was, looking and tasting like Nepalese potato salad. With quite a few chicken chunks throughout, the dish was my least favorite of all my meals so far, somewhat boring with a bit of bite and too much jasmine rice for the amount of sauce.

Zen Zero has become a staple in our house and we will be returning frequently in the future, so expect updates to this review as I try the red, yellow, and “dry” curries, among other dishes, in upcoming months. Good restaurants are not abundant in Lawrence, particularly downtown, but Zen Zero is a welcome addition!

CombatCritic gives Zen Zero 9 OUT OF 10 BOMBS … Bombs are good!






Key Words: zen zero, zen, zero, Lawrence, Kansas, Massachusetts, street, Thai, Nepalese, Japanese, curry, noodles, stir-fry, 66044, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Little Saigon Cafe Left Me Hungry for More … MEAT!


Little Saigon Cafe Left Me Hungry for More … MEAT!

Little Saigon Cafe
1524B W 23rd Street
Lawrence, KS 66046


Open 10AM to 8PM daily 
Closed Sundays

Our friends told us about Little Saigon Cafe, a small, unassuming diner on 23rd Street, claiming that it is a terrific value.  I love Vietnamese food, particularly deep fried Vietnamese egg rolls with fresh mint, wrapped in lettuce leaves, and accompanied by a mild sweet and spicy dipping sauce.  Unfortunately, the fried egg rolls ($3.25 for two) only come with dipping sauce, so I asked if I could get some lettuce and mint and the lovely young lady that took our order was happy to comply.

Kitchen and Counter
You enter through what looks like a (black) service door next to what is supposed to be the main service entrance and give your order to the hostess at the cash register.  There is a large menu on the counter for reference, but it was slightly uncomfortable arriving for the first time, being unfamiliar with the menu and having to make a quick decision while trying not to hold-up the line behind us. The restaurant is small, four four-top tables and a counter that seats six, so after submitting our order, we were lucky enough to have one table still available.

I did not see a curry on the menu, for a Vietnamese restaurant an unusual experience, so I asked if they made any curries.  The man whom I assumed was the owner and knew was the chef (the kitchen is right there in front of you behind the counter) overheard me and said “we can make a curry with beef, chicken, tofu”, telling me the “Saigon Beef ($8.99) is not on the menu”.  Sold!  My wife, who is predominantly vegetarian, ordered the Vegetable and Tofu Pho ($6.99).  We also ordered the fried egg rolls, one order of pork and one vegetable (also $3.25) for my wife.

Fried Egg Roll with Lettuce and Mint
The hostess, who doubled as a server after taking our order at the counter, quickly arrived with the lettuce and mint, followed shortly thereafter with the egg rolls.  Unfortunately, both of our orders were overcooked, dark and crispy, and even though I like my egg rolls crispy, they were burnt and not golden brown as they should be.  The flavor was still good and the filling mostly pork in my case, a nice surprise for a carnivore such as myself.  The lettuce and mint helped mask the flavor of the overcooked egg rolls. I have had better Vietnamese egg rolls, with all of the accompaniments, elsewhere, but they filled the void in any event.

Saigon Beef – $8.99
The entrees arrived a little too quickly as we had only just received our appetizers, but it worked out well because the entrees had time to cool off enough to be able to eat.  My Saigon beef was massive, but mostly (egg) noodles and very little beef for the price.  There were six or seven very small pieces of sliced beef at the most, less than two ounces I would guess and not nearly enough to satiate my hunger for meat. Mostly noodles, the curry sauce was tasty at first bite and the dish was infused with stir-fried green onion and what appeared to be egg, a strange new addition in my experience. The combination of curry and egg was not something I have had before and after the first bite, it became a bit off-putting and with the small amount of beef rapidly depleted, I did not finish my dish.

Vegetable and Tofu Pho – $6.99

My lovely wife’s Vegetable Tofu Pho came in a massive bowl and was quite pleasing to the eye.  A savory blend of snap peas, tofu, bean sprouts, carrot, kale, peppers, green onions and egg noodles, the broth was light but flavorful and a nice choice for a cold winter’s night.

Little Saigon Cafe was decent, but not the best Vietnamese food I have eaten by far.  The entree prices seem a bit high for a few vegetables, broth, and noodles. With the Pho’s ingredients in the neighborhood of $2 to $3 max, $4.99 to $5.99 would be more reasonable than the current $6.99 price tag.  Many University of Kansas (KU) student reviews on Yelp and elsewhere indicated that the prices are in-fact a bit high and in a college town such as Lawrence, restaurants must cater to the needs of cash strapped students or face the music.  Little Saigon’s staff are very friendly and helpful, and that is a rarity these days, particularly in Lawrence where the food scene is not well known for excellence or customer service based on my experience.  The food is prepared to order and the ingredients fresh, so give Little Saigon Cafe a try … maybe the food will be more to your liking than mine, but then again, I am a bit finicky when it comes to Asian cuisine where lots of meat and thick, flavorful curries are more tantalizing to my tastebuds than broth, veggies, and noodles.

CombatCritic Gives Little Saigon Cafe 6 Bombs Out of 10 … BOMBS ARE GOOD!








Key Words: little, Saigon, cafe, Vietnam, Vietnamese, cuisine, food, eat, restaurant, diner, pho, curry, broth, vegetables, noodles, Asian, Lawrence, Kansas, CombatCritic