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Eat Mi

Houston has some of the best Vietnamese noodle houses in the country

I was surprised to learn, as I studied opinions on the Internet, that the original Tau Bay on Bellaire isn't as popular as the second Tau Bay over at the corner of Fondren and the Southwest Freeway. It seems the founder sold the first location and moved on to the second, which is much bigger.

The mi at both Tau Bays comes with a pleasing assortment of add-ins. Shredded red cabbage, lettuce leaves, sprouts, basil and cilantro come on one plate, and lime wedges and jalapeño slices come on another. I don't know whether it's authentic to dump all these vegetables into your egg noodles, but they sure add crunch.

Following the posted advice of some seemingly hard-to-please Vietnamese noodle freaks, I went to the preferred second Tau Bay (8150 Southwest Freeway, 713-771-8485) for lunch one day. And I sought out the highly recommended soup called bun bo hue. The menu description seemed innocuous enough -- it said "beef and pork hot pepper noodle soup." But when I tried to order it, the waitress looked at me like I was crazy. She pointed to the picture of another bowl of soup on the menu and told me to get that one instead. I figured she was trying to save me from the hot peppers. So I persisted.

Go to Tan Tan for late-night mi with shrimp or 
barbecued pork.
Troy Fields
Go to Tan Tan for late-night mi with shrimp or barbecued pork.

Location Info

Map

Tan Tan Restaurant

6816 Ranchester
Houston, TX 77036

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Details

Mi with wontons: $4.95
Mi with barbecued pork: $4.95
Mi with shrimp: $5.50
Chicken wings: $4.95
Egg rolls: $5.95
6816 Ranchester, 713-771-1268. Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

When my bun bo hue arrived, I quickly figured out what the waitress was trying to save me from. The soup was full of tripe, tendons, sheets of fat and other items most Americans consider inedible. Given my recent praise of offal (see "Dancing Delicacies," November 4), I felt obliged to at least try to eat some of this stuff. I did my best. But there were some truly unchewable bits that I had to give up on. I almost asked for a doggie bag, as I think some of those pieces would have made excellent dog toys.

On a subsequent visit to Tau Bay on the Southwest Freeway, I ignored the Internet suggestions and listened to the waitstaff. "Get No. 31," the waitress told my lunch companion in no uncertain terms. It was excellent advice. The spicy pork soup came with vermicelli, shrimp balls and sliced pork with a crunchy garnish of peanuts. With the waitress's approval, I got No. 15, a bowl of mi with pork and seafood and a big piece of crispy pork crackling floating on top. With the lettuce, cabbage, sprouts, herbs and lime stirred in, it made a spectacular lunch on a cold, rainy Wednesday afternoon.

So where should you go to try a bowl of mi? The good news is, you really can't lose. Whether it's the fat noodles at Mi Cay Tun, the beautiful soup at Tau Bay on Bellaire, or a late-night bowl of noodles at Tan Tan, every bowl of mi has something to recommend it.

New York may have artful ramen, but Houston is the place for mi.

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