Nirvana is at the end of an alley in Hanoi.

Picture this scene: You walk down a long alley to an outdoor restaurant. A gaggle of shirtless teenage boys, clad in basketball shorts and flip flops, man a pair of eight foot long grills, filled with raging charcoal. There are a ton of seats, probably room for two hundred people. You sit on your diminutive stool at your diminutive table and some hot sauce, pickled cucumbers and handi-wipes are placed in front of you.

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 The menu is non-existent, but this is not a problem because it is only six items. Everything comes on wood skewers, and everything is cooked on the grill. Chicken leg quarters, flattened out, bone in. Chicken wing, stretched out joint by joint. Pork riblets, glazed and grilled to perfection. Banh mi baguettes, flattened, glazed with honey, and grilled until the charcoal flavor takes hold and the outside is perfectly crisped. Chicken foot and honey roasted sweet potatoes round out the food offerings. Cold draft beer is the drink option, though iced tea and sodas are available. This is heaven. This is the promised land.

You wade in slowly, ordering one of each thing. A young boy, not old enough to work the grills yet, walks by with a large pair of scissors, cutting your food off the sticks and into bits sized just right for gnawing. You quickly find your favorites, reordering many times, going for the cucumbers and the sweet bread when your palate tires of charcoal meats. Orders of more beer and more meat are immediately served. This is a place where you can eat as little or as much as you want, where you’re never without exactly what you want. This is the greatest restaurant concept of all time.

Time passes unnoticed. You find a perfect place, rest for a bit, then clean up with the handi-wipes. Wave over the oldest boy around; he tallies up your handscrawled tab. Beer, bread, and an amount of meat only hinted at by the mountain of discard bones are all accounted for. You’re stuffed, thrilled, and the check comes to a little under $8 a person. This is the greatest restaurant of all time.


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