Arlington / Vietnamese / $$
Nguyen Van Thoi left this mortal coil in 2005. Far better than a stone monument, he lives on in a restaurant run by his wife, Ngoc Thi Tran, and their son Richard Nguyen that not only serves his dishes with gusto, but also continues to innovate.
Mr. Thoi’s Beef & Pork Belly Skewers are an apt living memorial for any restaurateur. The rolls of sweet-and-tangy meat leave a juicy layer of flavor atop the bean-thread noodles where they sit. Diners soak rounds of rice paper in warm water and wrap up the bullet-shaped roulades, noodles, and pickled daikon and carrots to make the tastiest spring rolls this side of Can Tho.
The Southern Vietnamese city lends its name to the rightfully popular baby back ribs, deep-fried to a legendary fatty crispness. When you eat them, remember Mr. Thoi and his home city, but also appreciate a long future of dining on his family’s cooking in Arlington.
See this: Photos of Mr. Thoi with luminaries like Janet Reno cover the walls in this practical space.
Eat this: Green papaya salad with beef jerky, Mr. Thoi’s Beef & Pork Belly Skewers, Can Tho Crispy Glazed Baby Back Ribs
Service: Chances are, Richard Nguyen will be personally helping you. He’s been working for his parents since he was 12 and knows hospitality—and this restaurant— better than just about anyone.
When to dine here: You and your friends want to shake things up at lunchtime with unique dishes and a cocktail or coffee.