You can make a quick trip to Vietnam by visiting 2nd street in Northern Liberties, home to Same Same, a restaurant that embodies the freshness, lightness and contrast of Southern Vietnamese food. The restaurant is named after a riff on a Vietnamese expression “it’s the same, but not the same.”
It was an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations that inspired Bucks County-raised Chad Kubanoff, to make a bold move flying to Vietnam and landing an executive chef’s job at a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City. He had dropped out of the Culinary Institute of America, only to get his real-world experience in cooking. In Vietnam he met and fell in love with his wife, Thuy. After seven or so years, they relocated to Philadelphia and opened Same Same in 2015.
The restaurant itself is deceivingly large with bar stool seating looking out the front window and into the open kitchen as well as table seating with a beautiful outdoor zen garden in the back with plants and a fountain. The menu consists of Vietnamese street food-a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, snacks, desserts and house-made beverages. Most of the menu can be made gluten-free and/or vegetarian.
Same Same is very focused on offering an affordable meal, with 90% of our dishes priced at $10 or less. They have updated the menu a couple of times since they’ve opened, so it’s nice going back and trying new things. It’s also BYOB. If you aren’t drinking beer or wine we’d highly suggest the Tamarind Juice which was very sweet and strong or Lemongrass Tea for a more subtle beverage.
We tried the Crispy Tripe with jalapeno and herb puree (off menu) and Curry Rice Balls with lime, fresh herbs and fish sauce to start. Arielle usually gets the Tofu Noodle Bowl (it’s cold!), which they make vegan for her with a vegan fish sauce. Add some extra hot chilies and its perfect. Her boyfriend usually gets the Lemongrass Chicken Noodle Bowl.
Trying something light we ordered the Chicken Salad with shaved cabbage, pulled poached chicken breast, sliced white onion, fresh herbs, lots of lemon, peanuts and fish sauce. This might have been one of our favorite dishes because of how light and flavorful it was. We couldn’t leave without trying some caramelized pork. So we ordered the Caramelized Pork Lettuce Wrap with sliced pork butt marinated with fish sauce garlic, chili and sugar, served with lots of greens, fresh herbs, pickled vegetables, rice noodles and rice paper. I have never assembled my own summer rolls before so this was a treat spraying the rice paper with a small water bottle and waiting until it gets sticky then wrapping up the ingredients inside. I’d highly suggest the Lettuce Wraps, but maybe as an appetizer rather than an entree.
For something more substantial we opted for the Tofu Banh Mi on crispy bread, with lemongrass brined tofu, house made mayo, cucumber, jalapeño, scallions, cucumber, and pickled vegetables. This would be a great option for takeout. The bread was perfect and not overloaded with mayo. I added some homemade jalapeno sauce for extra heat. This sandwich would definitely be worth going back for. We would also love to come back and try a secret menu item like The Viet Dip which is their version of the french dip with sliced beef shank, lots of herbs, shaved onion, bean sprouts and a thickened pho broth.
For dessert we had the Caramelized Banana Bread Pudding served with coconut cream sauce, and toasted peanuts and Vietnamese Flan sauced with dark coffee and coconut cream. We were more partial to the Bread Pudding since we don’t drink coffee.
Overall the fare at Same Same is very authentic and ideal for the warmer months when you are looking for refreshing and light flavors. Stop by and enjoy outdoor seating in the zen garden or enjoy delivery via Caviar, Dashed, and Grubhub. Online ordering also available. And keep an eye out for a Same Same food truck coming soon!
-Lea and Arielle