Welcome to the latest installment of Jack & Mimi’s Cheap Date. Here are the rules: Each week, my girlfriend Mimi and I go somewhere in the Tacoma area for a cheap date where we spend $20 or less. This does not include tips because service is unique and can’t be universally quantified. This week we take a look at Vien Dong.
I’ve spent most of my adult life living in Tacoma’s Stadium District and the North End, but I grew up on Tacoma’s South Side on South 40th & Fawcett. A few blocks away on South 38th Street is an area my parents called ‘little Vietnam’ due to the amount of Vietnamese businesses there. In 1989 Vien Dong opened its doors on the corner of South 38th & Yakima Ave. and quickly became a fixture of the neighborhood.
I had been to Vien Dong once before many years ago and enjoyed the food. Mimi and I were trying to find a place we wanted to go. I mentioned Vietnamese food. She said, “I’m always hungry for Vietnamese food.”
We parked on the street and walked into a fairly empty restaurant on a Monday afternoon. There was one couple at a table and an old woman at a table by herself. We chose a seat and were given menus and hot tea with two small cups.
Mimi had never been there before and it’d been long enough that I didn’t remember what their prices were like. So I was surprised when I found that there were plenty of options to keep us within our $20 budget.
Given the variety of choices, it took a while for us to decide. Ultimately I chose number 32 Com Chien Duong Chau – Fried Rice with your choice of Shrimp, BBQ Pork, Chicken, or Beef. (I chose beef.) Mimi chose number 22 Bun Cha Gio Tren Khay – Egg Rolls & Vegetables Served in a bowl. Mimi also ordered a Café Sua Da – Iced French Coffee With Condensed Milk. I stuck with tea and water for a beverage.
The food arrived very quickly. The first thing I noticed was that our portions were huge. I took a photo of the table and realized I had to stand up to fit it all in the picture. Mimi enjoyed her food and found it incredibly filling. In fact, she wasn’t able to finish it all. My fried rice was a tiny bit too fried, but still enjoyable.
When it came time to leave, we wandered over to the cash register. Despite seeing the prices on the menu, I was still surprised when it only came to $17.25. This was easily the most food we’ve had so far on our Cheap Date excursions and one that we’ll definitely return to another time.
The South Side has many worthwhile places to discover. After our meal we went across the street to a wonderful shop full of random things and purchased a couple of noodle bowls.
Vien Dong is located at 3801 S. Yakima Ave., Tacoma, WA 98418
Where should Mimi and I go next? If you’ve got an idea, let us know. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.