Dining

What's Pho Breakfast?

Mission Cantina's new Vietnamese breakfast menu packs a punch
Two Fried Eggs on a Baguette
Photos: Lizzie Munro/Tasting Table
Eggs on a Baguette at Mission Cantina

With all due respect to the coffee cart next to the subway, sometimes we just need more out of our breakfast.

More funk. More spice. More heat. And noodles—way more noodles. That's where Danny Bowien steps in.

The chef/owner of Mission Cantina and Mission Chinese recently added another cuisine to his globe-trotting roster: Vietnamese, which appears in the form of breakfast at Cantina every morning from 9 to 11:30 a.m. The short, tight menu is a departure from the Mexican flavors that take center stage at dinner, though Mission fans probably already know that Bowien's never stuck too strictly to the proscribed definition of a cuisine (see: kung pao pastrami).

Vietnamese coffee | Chicken Pho and toppings

In other words, don't go expecting straightforward versions of Vietnamese classics (or when you're feeling peckish, for that matter—portions are not small). Do go when when you're craving the kind of gutsy flavors most breakfasts simply don't deliver: fish sauce, fresh herbs, pickled chiles and salty plums, among other things.

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Go when you want to swap the bacon and cheese on your egg sandwich for creamy house-made duck liver pâté and umami-packed Maggi sauce (Two Fried Eggs on a Baguette, $8). Topped with saw-tooth herb and cilantro and served with pickled radishes and thinly shaved onions, it's the savory breakfast banh mi of your dreams.

The sign outside of Mission Cantina | The restaurant's breakfast menu

Go when you're hungover and craving comfort: The rich, clean Chicken Pho ($12) arrives in a massive bowl, studded with hunks of tender braised chicken and extra-wide rice noodles from Tak Yick Foods in Chinatown. It comes with a little bowl of Turtle Tower chile sauce (fish sauce, lime juice, chiles and black pepper, named in honor of Bowien's favorite Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco) to dip the chicken into and a bowl of white onions drizzled with Sriracha to scatter over the broth. (They're also making lamb pho and the rich beef tendon-and-cheek stew called bo kho, both $14.)

Broken Rice platter

Go when you need fortification for a long, cold day, and get the Broken Rice platter ($12), laden with juicy patties of lemongrass-laced pork sausage, fried eggs, crunchy shallots and a vibrant mess of fresh lettuces and herbs. The nuoc mam dipping sauce that rides sidecar, made from fish sauce, coconut water, garlic, Thai chiles and pickled carrots, slices through the richness with panache.

Pair any of the above with club soda with salty plums, or, better yet, Vietnamese coffee, served in individual metal filters that drip into a thick layer of sweetened condensed milk (both $4). Sure beats the lukewarm stuff in your "We Are Happy to Serve You" paper cup.

Mission Cantina 172 Orchard St. New York NY 10002 212-254-2233

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