Inside the Asian Food Center off Aurora is a new branch of Green Leaf, a popular Vietnamese restaurant. Stop in for your dinner, then let the shopping commence at the Asian Food Center.
North-Enders, rejoice: Green Leaf, the Vietnamese restaurant that became wildly popular when it opened in a teensy Chinatown International District space in 2005, has finally opened a branch for you.
This latest addition to a handful of Green Leaf outlets is a roomy space with high ceilings, a bar and bountiful plaza parking. Seating is generous, with plenty of open tables the night we visited.
Big extra bonus: It’s inside the Asian Food Center (previously a Kmart), so you can shop for jackfruit, live crabs, fresh turmeric root and other essentials before or after your meal.
The ownership is the same as the original branch, our server told us, and the menu is identical.
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The menu: Classic categories from vermicelli bowls to pho to grilled meats over rice, with specials like Seven Courses of Beef.
Don’t miss: Wonderfully fragrant finger-size rolls of grilled meat wrapped in betel leaves, spring rolls that balance crunch with fresh flavors, plus crisp-fried egg rolls. While we didn’t sample it on this visit, Green Leaf has always had a lovely version of the banh xeo crepe.
What to skip: Papaya salad, so lightly dressed that we weren’t sure at first if it was seasoned at all, with impressively sized but overcooked skewered shrimp.
After you eat: The Asian Food Center is a full-service market, including bakery and seafood sections as well as imported Kit-Kats in flavors that you’ll never find in a 7-Eleven. Stop next door for take-home goodies from Kiki Bakery & Cafe, a California-based chain featuring Chinese pastries like egg tarts. Other restaurants in or adjoining the food center offer bubble tea, dim sum and even (at Rain Cafe) a ramen burger.
Prices: Grilled beef with lop leaf ($6), spring rolls ($6), egg rolls ($6), salt and pepper tofu ($14), vermicelli ($11) and papaya salad ($10) totaled $53, before tax and tip.