Banh Cuon Thang Long is a longstanding Vietnamese restaurant in Garland, part of the Cali Saigon Mall shopping center. The place is notoriously hard to find — it's housed in a structure that doesn’t appear built for the purpose: it looks more like an optometrist's office or a converted copy shop than a restaurant. Once you’re inside, Banh Cuon is a basic but cheerful dining space with a counter at which to order and a large covered patio.
The menu includes only Vietnamese items. You will not find any lo mein noodles or a kids’ chicken nugget plate on offer here. A huge draw is the inclusion of cha gio (Vietnamese rice paper egg rolls filled with meat, mushrooms and vermicelli and fried to a distinctive crunchy-chewy texture) and banh khoai (fried sweet potato cake with shrimp).
These items are not always easy to find, often replaced on menus by Chinese-style spring rolls and plain fried shrimp. Banh Cuon’s versions are mixed: the bánh khoai had very little shrimp and appeared to have been made with sweet potato French fries, but the cha gio were perfect. We also got to try the bánh cong, or shrimp cupcakes, that came with our meals. These are worth ordering as a separate appetizer.
Banh Cuon Thang Long is the restaurant's signature dish.
On one visit we opted for the restaurant’s namesake dish: Banh Cuon Thang Long, steamed rice paper filled with peppered ground pork and topped with pork roll, shrimp and Vietnamese grilled sausage. It’s easy to see why people come to Banh Cuon just for this dish. It’s hot and fresh-tasting, and a great example of how well Vietnamese cuisine balances contrasting flavors. On subsequent visits, we’ve ordered variations on this same dish, but it doesn’t even need the meat toppings. The delicious rice paper, herbs, and sauce make a complete meal.
Other pages of the menu include the classics often seen alongside banh mi or pho: vermicelli bowls, noodle soups, Vietnamese crepes and congee. You can also order heaping helpings of boiled crawfish with corn, potato, and sausage when the mudbugs are in season. Most larger groups of diners can be seen with banh beo chen, or water fern cake, on their tables to share. My dining companion has loved the deluxe beef noodle soup and the charbroiled pork vermicelli bowl.
Drinks include Vietnamese coffee as well as cold iced teas, lemonade and soy milk.
You may gather from other online reviews that Banh Cuon Thang Long is not a luxury dining establishment, but that's inconsequential here because the food is so good. The service is prompt and polite, the food is fresh and flavorful, and the prices are spot-on at less than $15 per person.
Banh Cuon is worth a visit when you’re in Garland. While you’re at it, have a stroll around the Cali Saigon shopping center and see some of the other amazing restaurants and shops that make their homes there.
Bánh Cuốn Thăng Long, 3347 Belt Line Road, Garland. 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., Wednesday – Monday, closed Tuesday.