Vietnamese Restaurants

Eat Like a Local: A Taste of Vietnam in Calhoun County

Article By Abby Parks

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Good afternoon, Vietnam! Calhoun County has already created a name for itself when it comes to diverse cuisines–Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and American restaurants have settled in various areas, drawing foodies that like to think–and eat–outside of the box. One category, however, has been underrepresented in our neck of the woods…until now! Within the last month or so, two restaurants have sprung up that focus on Vietnamese street food: Viet Alley in Oxford, Alabama, and Aura Sub in Anniston, Alabama. We made a stop at each of these new dining additions and can’t wait to share our discoveries with you.

Viet Alley: Vietnamese Street Food & Boba Tea

The restaurant space at 1807 U.S. Hwy 78 East in Oxford, AL has some new residents. What’s exciting to relay is that they specialize in elevated Vietnamese street food. Viet Alley had a soft opening on April 1, and since has had a steady stream of curious diners eager to sample their unique cuisine.


Viet Alley’s brand of street food is authentic Pho Soup Bowls, Rice Dishes, Vermicelli Bowls, and Bahn Mi Sandwiches. The Pho Soups can be ordered with either beef, chicken, or shrimp as the base meat, mixed in with rice noodles, beef broth, and a variety of extras like bean sprouts, Thai basil, jalapeno, and lemon. In addition to the aforementioned meats, their rice dishes also offer pork and tofu options. These meats come accompanied by a side of rice, fresh sliced cucumber/lettuce/tomato, and a fried egg. 


Their Bahn Mi sandwiches come with the same meat options, plus other fresh toppings like green onion, carrot, daikon, and homemade mayo on a fresh hoagie roll. Appetizers on the menu include Spring or Egg Rolls, Calamaries, Truffle French Fries, and Onion Rings.

My Taste of Viet Alley: The Vermicelli Bowl and Boba Tea

As Vietnamese food is a style I’m not very familiar with, I was excited to sample some of their fare. I opted for the Vermicelli Bowl, a delicious blend of white vermicelli topped with savory chicken and shrimp (I requested both). The owner explained to me that he marinates the chicken in a combination of fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, chicken seasoning, vegetable oil, black pepper, and a couple of other secret ingredients. The bowl also contained mint, cilantro, green onion, and a bit of lettuce, and was also topped with a sliced egg roll.


While he brought me a side of fish sauce to pour into my bowl as desired, I could have opted for peanut sauce or sweet chili (a kind of sweet and sour sauce). I was happy with the fish sauce and pleased by the flavorful blend of harmonious ingredients. The chicken, a perfect balance between sweet and spicy, was tender, while the shrimp seasoning was more subtle but satisfying. I enjoyed the added egg roll on top which was daintily delightful. The bowl was generous, and I could have easily taken half of it home, but I did manage to eat it all in one sitting.


I ordered a Strawberry Boba Tea to accompany my meal. This is the first time I’ve ever tried Boba Tea. He told me that the base tea was jasmine, which was mixed with milk, strawberry, and strawberry-flavored boba pearls–chewy pearls composed of tapioca. I was intrigued by their texture and flavor, which I can only compare to fruit-flavored gummi bears. I enjoyed the drink and would indulge again.

About the Owner

Ace Huynh, the owner, chatted with me about his passion for Vietnamese street food and his desire to bring it to our area. He was raised on this type of food in his early years growing up in Vietnam. After immigrating to the U.S. when he was 19 years old, he worked for the past 10 years at Asian restaurants in Orlando, Florida. He relocated to this area just a few months ago (where his extended family resides) and decided to open Viet Alley to bring this unique food to an area where it’s uncommon. 


The reason he’s only had a soft opening is because he needs experienced Asian cooks. Currently, he and certain family members alone are carrying that burden. He relayed that he prefers cooks with a background in Asian cuisine because of its unique demands. “It takes a lot of energy, and I want folks that are not only experienced but passionate about it.”


While traditional Vietnamese street food is cooked outdoors, typically over charcoal, Ace has adapted his recipes to the griddle in his restaurant, where he can easily grill his pre-marinated meats quickly for diners. 


Viet Alley, located at 1807 U.S. Hwy 78 in Oxford, AL, is currently open from 11 am to 9 pm. For more info call (904) 609-6383 or email vietalleyal@gmail.com.

Aura Sub: Vietnamese Sandwiches

Angelina Nguyen, the owner of the new Aura Sub, has already gotten her feet wet in Calhoun County with her sister store Aura BobaTea, a shop that specializes in Boba Tea, Waffles, and Bingsu, which she opened in the summer of 2023. Angelina is excited about her expansion, setting up Aura Sub in the same Golden Springs shopping complex that houses Winn Dixie, The UPS Store, and other small businesses. Her grand opening took place on April 12, and since then she’s had increasing traffic to sample her Bahn Mi sandwiches.


The menu is comprised of two main options: a meat/rice combo plate and their staple Bahn Mi sandwich. The plate consists of the customer’s choice of Grilled Pork, Chicken Teriyaki, Beef, or Vegan Tofu, accompanied by Steamed or Fried Rice. 


The Bahn Mi is pretty much a submarine sandwich, but the meats differ in flavor, as well as the toppings. Customers can choose between meats like Grilled Pork, Chicken Teriyaki, Vegan Tofu, Beef, or the Special Combination (more on that in a moment).


Not present on their printed menu, but available at their electronic menu station, customers can also order Korean Corn Dogs, an item she is testing to see if customers have an interest. She explained that Korean Corn Dogs are more crispy than the American version. She offers one as a hot dog, one as cheese, and the third is stuffed with potato. As she settles in and hopefully can assemble a larger staff, Angelina would like to add other meal options to her menu like Pho. 


As far as drink options go beyond the typical choices, patrons can opt for Vietnamese coffee, Chamomile Tea, an Herbal Milk Drink, or Fresh Orange Juice.

My Taste of Aura Sub: Special Combination and Vietnamese Coffee

I ordered a Special Combination Bahn Mi sandwich, which features four different sliced meats. There are three different types of ham, all of which are prepared specifically for these types of sandwiches and sourced from the Atlanta area. The fourth meat was sliced pork, marinated and prepared by Angelina’s husband.


I took a closer look at the meats. The pork was a light beige with bright pink running along the edges, while one of the ham slices was a similar color, but almost looked like sliced chicken. Still another was comparable to the first ham slice, but was more fatty. And the most interesting slice of ham was more brown in color with a marbled look throughout.


These meats, along with a carrot, cucumber, and cilantro topping, were folded into a fresh submarine hoagie with a dash of mayo inside. Jalapenos are part of the combination of a typical one, but I asked her to hold them. I thoroughly enjoyed my sandwich. The seasoned meat was a perfect balance of flavors, not too strong, while the toppings added a sweetness to the blend. The bread had a nice crunch from the outside but was soft on the inside. All in all, I loved this spin on the typical sub sandwich, and am eager to have it again, plus try others on the Aura Sub menu.


I also purchased a Vietnamese Coffee to take on the road. The iced coffee mixed with milk was lightly sugared, giving it a refreshing lift. Yet another item I would willingly indulge in a second time.

About the Owner

Angelina is a Vietnamese local who missed the street food she was accustomed to in her native land. In order to eat Vietnamese street food (other than preparing it at home), she, her husband, and their daughter would have to drive all the way to Atlanta for quality authentic Vietnamese food. This led her to the decision to fill that gap herself by opening a storefront dedicated to the sandwiches one can easily acquire on the streets of any city in Vietnam.


She explained that Bahn Mi sandwiches are similar to our version of fast food in that they are prepared quickly, are inexpensive, and can be purchased while on the go. People in her native country will often purchase a Bahn Mi sandwich as their main meal of the day. 


While many business owners dream out loud of expansion, it’s easy to buy into Angelina’s musings over branching out with a future location in Oxford and a possible location in Birmingham. Given that Aura Sub is now her second business, it’s obvious that she is a passionate entrepreneur destined for great things.


Aura Sub can be found at 1424 Golden Springs Road in Anniston, AL. Their hours of operation are Monday thru Saturday from 9:30 am – 7 pm and Sunday from 10 am – 2 pm. They can be reached by phone at (770) 527-6789 or by email at Aurasub.anniston@gmail.com.

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