Vinyl Wine Bar attracts the laptop crowd

The story goes that Hung Lam, aka “Soup Junkie,” tried bowls and bowls of noodle soup in San Francisco but couldn’t find one that could live up to the taste of his mom’s. So now he pops up with a weekly pop up restaurant at Vinyl Wine Bar to show what a good bowl of soup noodles is all about.

Now that’s taking things into your own hands to the extreme.

I’m a big fan of Vietnamese soup noodles, and even though I haven’t necessarily found the ultimate bowl that compares to what I had in Saigon, I still get some decent bowls that can hit the spot. Bun Rieu is an especially unique noodle soup that’s completely different from the ubiquitous pho, having different noodles, different broth, and different toppings.

The bun rieu is known for its tomato-based broth and crab-egg topping. Last Friday night, I tried Soup Junkie’s version (he was only offering pho and bun rieu that night; on other nights he might also sell ramen).

Soup Junkie's bun rieu was all about the broth

Finding bun rieu at Vinyl in the Divisadero corridor of the Western Addition (or maybe the area is now considered NOPA) seems a bit jarring when surrounded by the jazzy images and vinyl records hanging in what is more like a wine bar/coffee shop.

Along with wine, Vinyl offers small bar bites, and I tried a pear salad that was fresh with classic flavors of the season. But the main focus of the night was the bun rieu, which came out beautifully orange topped with a fresh crab omelette and curly water spinach (which I find beautiful and rarely see being used in Vietnamese restaurants here).

While the crab omelette and pork meatballs were good, I found the star of the bun rieu was definitely the soup, clean and fresh but packed with flavor, a sure sign of broth that had been lovingly cooked for hours.

Soup Junkie’s bun rieu, which he makes with his mom doing much of the directing, does distinguish itself as a high-quality bowl of soup. It should be considering he charges $11 a pop. His weekly pop up at Vinyl is a bit out of the way for me to go regularly, but it’s definitely a safe bet for people in the neighborhood who doesn’t want to head over to Clement.

Check out Soup Junkie’s pop up schedule on its website. Vinyl Wine Bar, 359 Divisadero (at Page), San Francisco. PH: 415.621.4132 www.vinylsf.com

Classic pear salad with goat cheese is among items on Vinyl Wine Bar's regular menu

Sauces and fresh herbs to accompany Soup Junkie's pho

Vinyl's vibe is all about the music

Soup Junkie pops up on Friday nights

5 Responses to Home-style Bun Rieu at Vinyl Wine Bar

  1. Sandy says:

    I’ve never had Asian noodle soup w/ a tomato broth like that but it look amazing :)

    • Ben Ben says:

      Sandy, next time you go to a Vietnamese restaurant, look for bun rieu and give it a try. The only thing is Soup Junkie uses fresh crab where most other places well use a preserved type or something like that.

  2. hungry dog says:

    I’ll have to check this out, it’s not far from where we live. A food truck I like which is often parked in our ‘hood, Bacon Bacon, also pops up at Vinyl, I think. You should check them out too!

  3. Carolyn Jung says:

    I’ve only had a tomato-based soup in Asian noodles once — and it was with ramen. I bet the pho version is fantastic. The photos sure look mouth-watering.

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