Pacific Northwest by Way of Vietnam

Caroline Hatchett

After polishing off a bowl of oxtail kare kare at Magna Kusina in Portland, Ore., I asked Roberto Almodovar, the restaurant’s manager and a friend, where I should eat in a rare block of unscheduled time the next day. HA VL, he told me. And get there early.

Fast forward to 9 a.m. the next day, I pulled my rented midsize sedan into the parking lot of the Vietnamese soup shop...