The story below is from our May/June 2015 issue. For the full story download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
With four fine dining rooms featuring distinct and distinctive offerings, there appears to be a trend around Roanoke. Here's the take on Vina Cafe.
It’s time for me to make a mid-year prediction: 2015 is and will remain the year of Vietnamese cuisine in Roanoke. It’s been a slow storm brewing, with new restaurants opening every year since 2011, but the Star City is now home to four different diverse and delicious Vietnamese restaurants. Whether you’re looking for a steaming bowl of phở on a chilly evening or a quick lunch sandwich during the work week, whether you live in Vinton or Northeast Roanoke, options abound for a gustatory trip to Southeast Asia – all without hopping on a plane.
A Hidden Hershberger Gem
For some reason, I always overshoot Vina Cafe. Tucked next to the Uhaul store on Hershberger Road by Ferncliff Road, Vina Cafe serves some of the most unique Vietnamese dishes in the valley. A tiny restaurant with only a few tables, the cooks and servers at Vina are friendly and quick to help decipher the menu.
While they serve phở and bún, I like to visit for bánh xèo – Vietnamese crepes – and Bo Kho – a hearty beef stew. Bánh xèo is one of my favorite dishes, and one I never thought I’d see here in Roanoke. Instead of the flour crepes we’re used to in Western cuisine, bánh xèo features a thin, crispy wafer crepe made from rice flour, mung beans, coconut milk, and turmeric, with, at Vina Café, shrimp and pork mixed in. In order to assemble and eat, you wrap pieces of the crepe in lettuce, add some bean sprouts, and dip in a coconut water and fish sauce concoction that’s both sweet and sour. It’s messy but satisfying.
Bo Kho, on the other hand, is the polar opposite: a huge bowl of beef broth laced with lemongrass and star anise with chunks of incredibly tender beef and carrots throughout. I liken it to a pot roast stew of sorts and, during snowy winter days, it’s the dish I crave the most in Roanoke.
Like everything I’ve sampled at Vina Café, the Bo Kho is warm and rich and like a hug from your mother – if your mother were an incredibly talented Vietnamese cook who could always be found cooking her heart out on Hershberger Road.
Vina Cafe | 2942 Hershberger Rd NW, Roanoke, | 540-366-2205