Photo by Ryan Murray

The pork belly rice bowl (left) and “BB Special” banh mi ring in with all the fixins’ at just around $16, and are more than enough to fill two hungry bellies. Sizzle and Crunch has slung quick, casual Vietnamese comfort food since February 2017.
Photo by Ryan Murray The pork belly rice bowl (left) and “BB Special” banh mi ring in with all the fixins’ at just around $16, and are more than enough to fill two hungry bellies. Sizzle and Crunch has slung quick, casual Vietnamese comfort food since February 2017.

If you didn’t know you wanted a Chipotle-style build-your-own Vietnamese restaurant, I’ll bet you do now.

You’re in luck, as the University District’s Sizzle and Crunch is around to fill that need.

The compact spot is just off University Avenue, and adds another selection to The Ave’s eclectic food choices. Even on a cold Monday well past lunch time, the line of students stretched nearly out the door.

While Seattle has a wealth of good Vietnamese food, Sizzle and Crunch’s owner, Paul Nguyen, said that line-style food was a rarity in Seattle.

“In Vietnam, it’s common to have the ingredients separated and prepared in front of you,” Nguyen writes on the website.

The restaurant opened in February 2017 and has remained quietly under the radar for most of Seattle’s foodie scene ever since.

The menu is simple and direct. Banh mi, rice bowls, salad bowls and vermicelli bowls are about what you have to choose from.

The pork belly rice bowl was easily enough for two, with fatty lemongrass pork belly atop broken white rice with fish sauce.

The friendly staff then ask what toppings you want. And since they are free, and I have no self control, I opted for all of them. So house-pickled daikon and carrot, cucumbers, sliced jalapeños, shredded scallion, cilantro and tomato are all present, as was an egg (OK, I paid a little more for that) and green onion aioli.

Nguyen, a recent University of Washington alumnus, traveled to his hometown of Saigon to make sure his recipes were authentic.

The meats and tofu are grilled every hour to ensure freshness and speed. From first order to sitting down with food is just a few minutes, although looking at all the savory food makes those minutes stretch a little longer than one might like.

The BB Special banh mi gives you just about everything you could want in a sandwich. Vietnamese cold cuts and braised pork belly nestle in house-made pate, garlic mayo (there is also a jalapeño-cilantro aioli available) and a sunny-side up egg atop a crunchy baguette.

The whole green onions were a bit much, and the jalapeños quartered lengthwise were a tad too thick, but otherwise, the rich pate and meats polished off a fine sandwich.

If you can brave the hordes of hungry students popping into Sizzle and Crunch between classes, it’s certainly worth a stop. The rice bowl is the better deal, but the banh mi are just about as good as you’ll find anywhere in Seattle.

For both above-mentioned dishes, the total was just around $16. Not cheap by Seattle Vietnamese standards, but with plenty enough food to feed two, leave a generous tip and walk out the door for less than $20. Some menu items are even more affordable, falling closer to line with banh mi elsewhere.


Sizzle and Crunch is located at 1313 NE 42nd St.