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Hy Vong Restaurant: A Little Vietnamese Heaven on SW 8th St.

June 05, 2008 By Doug in Miami: Local News  | 11 Comments



One of the great things about Miami is the sheer international-ness of it.  And the fact that an authentic, landmark Vietnamese restaurant could be thriving in the heart of Little Havana is a tasty reminder of just how true this is.


Hy Vong (3458 SW Eighth St., Miami, FL 33135, 305-446-3674) owners Kathy Manning and Tung Nguyen reflect this diversity particularly well.  A lacquered Miami Herald article on the wall at the entrance of their business tells their story:  In 1975, Tung, then 27 and pregnant, escaped her war-ravaged homeland aboard a fishing vessel, not certain where it would take her. 

Fortunately, after a series of several opportune twists of fate, she eventually ended up in Miami, with Kathy as her refugee sponsor.  A few months later, Tung’s daughter Lyn was born, and the three became a happy family, first opening Hy Vong in 1980.  Vietnamese for “hope”, Hy Vong epitomizes the dream that has brought so many to this neighborhood,  and to this country.



Lyn grew up in and around the restaurant, and was a regular whiz kid at Coral Gables High, so much so that she won admission to Harvard, later getting her degree from Cornell.  She tried out life as an investment banker in New York for a while, but the pace of the Northeast was a little too fast for her.  With fond recollections of her childhood at Hy Vong, she changed her life plan, and returned to Miami to join the business.  Using her enterprising savvy, she began marketing the restaurant’s favorite dishes to food stores throughout South Florida, out of a plant in Dania.

Today, word of Tung’s delicious recipes has spread far and wide, and those in-the-know line up in droves each evening for a taste of this home-style Vietnamese cooking.  Tung herself mans the kitchen, while Kathy holds court up front, making sure that the customers all feel welcome and content.


Says one satisfied regular, “Walking into Hy Vong is like going to a favorite relative’s for dinner. On my way to the table I say hi to many of the regulars whom I have come to know from sharing time in the restaurant. Bey brings me a glass of my favorite wine, and I know the food will be consistently good.”

Dave and I arrived after 9 pm on a Saturday night, when we were told the crowds would be waning.  Although we were seated right away by the afore-mentioned Bey, the crowd was still lively and plentiful. 

Kathy came to our table in short order, and, after we selected a glass of homemade lemonade and some iced tea, I asked her to choose for us, so we could be sure to sample their very best selections.  These were her recommendations:



Banh Cuon are steamed pork rolling cakes, and this, confides Kathy, is the restaurant’s most popular dish.  One taste and you can see why: similar to dumplings in taste and texture, this dish is seasoned to perfection in a zesty sauce, and richly garnished with chives and various other assorted veggies; it’s insanely delicious, and a real bargain at $6, for an order of two.



Cha Gio are spring rolls, and they come two per order with a brothy dipping sauce.  The trick is to roll them up in the lettuce while dipping them in the sauce, and then to pop them promptly into your mouth.  The dish is also garnished with fresh mint leaves. $4.



Next on Kathy’s list of suggestions was the Hearty Soup, or, as it is known by its proper name, “Pho” (pronounced fah).  This is perhaps the most familiar item in Vietnamese cooking—that large broth filled with veggies, noodles and meat.  Other ingredients include anise star, basil, cilantro, and lime.  You can enjoy it spicy or sweet.  For a spicy taste, go with the red sauce, and for a sweet taste, Hoisin is the bottle to grab.  Kathy maintains that spicy is best, so we mixed the red sauce with some homemade sauce on the table and came up with a mixture that cleared our sinuses rather quickly.  A couple of limes were also provided, which we dutifully squeezed over our soup.


Kathy explained that Pho is the typical Hanoi soup, while Bun Bo Hue, a beef broth of cellophane noodles, chicken and shrimp is more common in the central regions;  another dish, called Hu-Tieu, is the popular dish of the southern realms, which contains soy bean, lemon, chili, and soy sauce—instead of herbs and lettuce.  $6.50.



After finishing our Pho, we didn’t have room for two entrees, so we had to go with only one.  Dave and I both agreed on one of the items Kathy had suggested from the specials list, the scallops with fresh fruit ($16.95). 

This was exquisite, to say the least!  There were about six scallops, cooked to perfection, topped with shreds of mango and garnished with mint and cilantro.  It was the perfect coup-de-gras for an evening well-spent!


The best part of this atypical Calle Ocho meal was that it left you feeling full but not bursting.  The cuisine was light going down, and the abundance of fresh herbs and veggies is a welcome relief from our super-processed American life. 

We left thinking what a great experience it had been on so many levels—the customer interaction was so sincere and outgoing that I had to pinch myself a few times to make sure I was really in Miami.  And the food was not only delicious, but so healthy that I made a resolution to seek out Vietnamese cuisine more often.  And when you’re in South Florida, you can do no better than Hy Vong!

Hy Vong
3458 SW Eighth St., Miami, FL 33135
Phone: (305) 446-3674


Related Categories: Restaurants Miami: Local News,

Douglas Eames is a freelance writer, homespun philosopher and budget bon vivant who divides his time between Southern California and South Beach.

See more articles by Doug.

See more articles by Doug

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11 Comments on

"Hy Vong Restaurant: A Little Vietnamese Heaven on SW 8th St."

Sara says:

Fantastic post! The food looks so fresh and colorful. I wanted to snatch the mint off the plate!

Posted on 06/06/2008 at 9:54 AM

Doug says:

Thanks, Sara, glad you liked it! Yes, suffice it to say, this restaurant is an herbalist’s nirvana!

Posted on 06/06/2008 at 12:13 PM

Rebecca Lucente says:

Great Review Doug! I have never tried Vietnamese food and your article and pictures have my mouth watering. I’ll definitely be going there soon.. Like maybe tomorrow smile

Posted on 06/07/2008 at 10:35 PM

ato says:

Doug, your review is great! Going to Hy-Vong is my favorite treat. We have been going there for the last 2 years and every time it amazes me more.

Sometimes the waiting is a little bit long (it is a small restaurant) but man, IT IS WORTH the wait!... as a matter of fact, sometimes I feel I wait the whole week just to go there!

Next time you go, if you are into spicy stuff, try the kim-shee, it is also very healthy and good for our digestive system.  The beet salad is also not always in the menu, but when it is, you should try it.

Thanks though for writing about this little great place. smile

Posted on 06/14/2008 at 1:03 PM

Doug says:

Hi ato, thanks! Glad you enjoyed the review and that you’ve also had the Hy Vong experience! I will try the kim-shee next time I’m down there.  Sounds good!

Posted on 06/14/2008 at 4:52 PM

Tracy says:

I have been going to Hy Vong since they opened over thiry or so years ago. It is simply the best restaurant in South Florida by far. Be patient and amazed at what the chefs can do in that little kitchen!

Posted on 07/01/2008 at 4:05 PM

what is 2 says:

I watched a documentary on Travel & Living about the Vietnamese food and it really made me wanna visit the country. I liked especially the time they spend every morning at coffee - of course not ordinary one, but very interesting ones. I also liked the combinations they made, which I admit are my sin.

Posted on 09/07/2008 at 6:24 PM

ato says:

What is 2, I don’t know if how they make the coffee is vietnamese style of coffee, but they’ll bring you a cup, with the coffee on top, dripping in the up over condensed milk… it is AWESOME!!!

Posted on 09/13/2008 at 4:09 PM


The meal was exceptional. I studied culinary at J & W for a year. This really razzled and dazzled me. This is why I enjoy eating at new places.  Thanks for the wonderful dining experience.

Posted on 10/20/2008 at 11:52 AM

Jacci says:

I was absolutely amazed at the complexity of textures and tastes!  My friends, Helen and Maggie (to whom I am most grateful for this culinary trip to Heaven), ordered for me, so I had several fantastic dishes.  I plan to eat my way through the entire menu!

Posted on 03/28/2009 at 3:01 PM

Gisela Santana says:

Amazing food!!!!!! Worth every minute wait, cause unless you’re there at 6p sharp you WILL have to wait

Posted on 07/24/2009 at 1:01 PM

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