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T&M Vietnamese Restaurant
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Written by Penny Gourmet

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PENNY GOURMET

We've just been once, but we'll be back. Fresh, fast, tastey, ample and fantastically afforable. Penny Gourmet goes off the beated track to discover a bargain ethnic dining experience 50 miles from Portsmouth, NH.

T&M's Restaurant
Authentic Vietnamese Cuisine
478 Merrimack Street
Lowell, MA
(978) 453-5641

Once in a rare while an accidental meal turns into a dining discovery. So it was when by sheer chance we pulled up in front of T&M’s in Lowell. We were searching for Asian food, knowing the city has been a magnet to a new wave of immigrants. Lowell and Lawrence were called "Immigrant City" at the turn of the 20th century when the Italians, Poles, Lithuanians, Russians and others arrived in droves to work long hours at the region’s massive textile mills.

Our native Portsmouth, NH may be "the Cambridge of the North" when it comes to dining, but we are without Cambodian or Vietnamese cuisine. T&M’s won’t win any design or architectural awards. It is a typical city café on a typical gritty city street downtown. But we ate two massive bowls of soup (one well-done beef, one chicken), savored the green tea in tall glasses, ordered hand-made cold spring rolls with shrimp – for $13.

We will not pretend to know the menu. It was Greek to us, mostly. We had to ask the owner what to do with the heaping bowl of lime, lemon, fresh been sprouts and uncut basil leaves. (They go in the soup.) We were leery of various sauces – one peanut, some thick hot sauce in a bottle, and a pasty soy mixture. We were the only non-Lowell, non-Asians in the place, so the owner discreetly slipped us forks, just in case.

No need to dress up. No fancy seating. And yes, they do take-out.

T&M’s Restaurant is open 12 hours on weekends (9am to 9pm) and we won the prize for furthest distance traveled (50 miles). We begged the owner to set up a shop in New Hampshire, but he has a clear business plan and intends to stay among regular customers and affordable rent. The secret to the soup, he says, is to start it 12 hours early each day.

We don’t want to rave about the price or the flavor until we get back there again. And we will. Suddenly 50 miles for soup doesn’t seem so far.

T&M Restaurant

T&M Vietnamese Restaurant

Lowell Dining

Photos (c) SeacoastNH.com. All rights reserved.