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A public service to LA-based hounds: The definitive Little Saigon glovebox list...?

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Trekking through Disney's corporate version of happiness all day left my LTA (Lovely Tasting Assistant) and I with a chill in our spines-- a chill that only a steaming bowl of pho could knock out.

The problem is, I live in the Fairfax District and don't get to OC very often, so I had no idea where to go! I need your help, fellow hounds.

I desperately need the definitive WVGL (Westminster Vietnamese Glovebox List) to print out and keep permanently in my car. I feel that there are likely many LA hounds who could also greatly benefit from such a service.

Bear in mind, this doesn't need to be an exhaustive list... simply one with 5 to 10 of the absolute best that the Little Saigon area has to offer, with a few late-night alternatives.

I'll start with the meager few that I've tried. Also, because many restaurants in Westminster seem to have multiple locations, can you list the intersection of the one you're specifically referring to?

WITHOUT FURTHER ADO....

..........................let's begin The Little Saigon Glovebox List! (remember, it doesn't have to only be Pho... but it does need to be super-delicious)

Banh Mi Che Cali (Brookhurst and McFadden) - the definitive location, which bakes bread on-site. At other locations the bread purportedly does not taste as fresh.

Pho 79 (Hazard and Brookhurst) - confusingly hidden BEHIND a strip mall-- look for big sign out front, but then drive around back to actually get to the place. There is another location in a westminster shopping mall at 9200 Bolsa Ave which I have not tried.

Your turn!

Mr Taster
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  1. Brodards-off Brookhurst, south of the 22 behind the 99 cents store-duck salad and pork spring rolls (sorry, don't know the real name for them).

    Pho Kimmy- 14932 Bushard St., Westminster. 714-775-1699-one of the best bowls of pho and the rare beef can be served on the side so you can control the 'doneness' of it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: justagthing

      I don't know when you've been there last, but Pho Kimmy has purportedly gone way down (I hear it's due to internal family squabbling and subsequent change of ownership). Based on my first (and last) visit, it was probably one of the worst bowls of pho I've ever had. The beef on the side can be ordered at any pho restaurant. Just ask for it. I've been eating pho my whole life and have yet to encounter one that doesn't do it.

    2. Com Tam Thuan Kieu - 14282 Brookhurst - their San Gabriel location is better, but still a great broken rice place.

      1. Song Long Bakery- for Cafe Sua Da and french bread rolls -off Bolsa near Bushard. So good.

        Pho Tau Bay L.T.T. Santa Ana CA 3610 W. First St.- The Pho is okay, but everyone goes for the banh cuon dac biet, which are made with diced pork not ground and served with dried shedded pork on top. Amazing.

        1. Actually, kingkong5 had a great list, but I'm too lazy to dig it up.

          3 Replies
          1. re: SauceSupreme

            Thanks for the reminder SS! I posted an imaginary "best of" Little Saigon trip from the South to the North here

            http://www.chowhound.com/topics/341312

            It covers the majority of what I feel are exceptional restaurants. To this list I would also add Bo 7 Mon (7 courses of beef) Hong An, located on the front side of Brodard at Brookhurst/Westminster.

            There are lots of other places to eat in Little Saigon - the majority of them being mediocre or less than acceptable. They're good if all you need is to fill up your stomach, but as chowhounders we know that we need to make every meal count. For that reason, if you're not going to be down in Little Saigon often, I say you should stick to the "best of..." list.

            kk5

            1. re: kingkong5

              Your list is fantastic.

              Just a few qualifiers-- what would you recommend for late night or 24 hour Vietnamese food? We arrived at Pho 79 around 8pm and were depressed to find it closed, and I found myself running in the Brookhurst-Bolsa-Magnolia circle not knowing where to go.

              I did leave one restaurant off the list-- a great place on Bolsa in the K&M supermarket plaza (the one with the big Chinese gate outside the parking lot-- you know which one?) It's on the SE corner of the plaza, next to Bolsa. Very modern and clean inside, with fishtanks and bamboo everywhere. We had the crispy rice cakes topped with shrimp & rice dough mochi-type things and the jackfruit salad-- excellent. The soups we ordered (not pho) were not as big a hit, however, with my Taiwanese mother in law.

              Mr Taster
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              By the way, I noticed that both Pho 79 and Bun Mi Che Cali were conspiculously absent.... any particular reason?

              Again, many thanks for this excellent list. It will live in my glovebox for all eternity (or at least until you update it :)

              Mr Taster
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              1. re: Mr Taster

                For late night 24 hour Pho, I would recommend Pho Thanh. It is on Bolsa, just west of Bushard. They seem to have very consistently quality regardless of what time we get there, which is something I can't say for the other 24 hour places. You'll be happy with Pho Thanh.

                The plaza you are thinking of is called T&K, and the restaurant is called Quan Hy. Very nice restaurant, with the little bridge you walk over to get inside. I love the crispy rice cakes (banh it ram) as well is the jackfruit salad (goi mit) my wife likes the baby clam salad. Their "thing" is probably the steamed rice cakes in little ramekins - you get about 9 of them to an order. They're topped with some minced shrimp and other stuff, and you pour the nuoc mam sauce on top and eat.

                I think Pho 79 is excellent, but had to leave it off the list because if you go on a tour of Little Saigon you can't hit too many pho places. The broth is excellent there, and they've been around since 1979 so they must be doing something right. And Banh Mi Che Cali - mea culpa. It belongs on the list, but I don't find banh mi an especially "chowhoundworthy" meal when cruising little Saigon. I mean, it's just a sandwich - I make sandwiches at home all the time! OTOH, I see your point, and if I had to have a highlight for the banh mi representation, it would definitely be banh mi che cali.

                I hope you have a lot of fun visiting the other places when you're in town, and congrats on the wedding. Welcome to the club!

          2. There are many great places people refer to often, but there are many others that specialize in one or a few things that don't get mentioned that often. I hope this helps.

            I love going to the usual suspects:

            - Pho Kimmy: Rich broth like no other place. I'll tell you the truth though, ask any vietnamese person --- store pho tastes nothing like homemade but this place gets you closer.
            14932 Bushard St., Westminster. 714-775-1699

            - Banh Mi Che Cali: Vietnames baguettes. There is on Brookurst and McFadden which is a stand alone and formerly an old Teriyaki place. Not as crowded as the others.

            - For broken rice I concur with Com Tam Thuan Kieu: You get a soup with a piece of bone on pork with your meal.
            14282 Brookhurst Westminster

            - Trieu Chau: This is in the outskirts of Little Sai where Bolsa turns into 1st. Legendary place selling mi/hu tieu. It's a pork based broth with all types of goodies, eat it with a chau quay (chinese donut). The place is a hole in the wall but is considered the best place for a steaming bowl of soup hands down. Get the (mi and/or hu tieu) nam vang which has a variety of meatballs, shrimp, chicken, and duck. Yellow egg noodle= mi or rice noodle = hu tieu. Or do what I do and mix them! 4401 W. 1st Street, Santa Ana. 714-775-1536

            - Brodard's has moved to Trask and Magnolia. Haven't been to the new location but it's more hip and expensive. Still love the nem nuong cuon. Grilled pork rolls with a kickin sauce.

            - Bo 7 Mon: Don't like Pagolac on Brookhurst. I like Anh Hong 10195 Westminster Ave., Garden Grove 714-537-5230.

            Some places if you're really looking for some vietnamese specialties (all of these are mom and pop places with no frills which always have the best tasting food):

            - Van's Restaurant: Specializes in banh xeo. It's a yellow large crispy crepe with meat and plenty of bean sprouts. Also try the banh beo chen = steamed rice ovalettes in tiny dishes topped with shrimp and fried pork rinds. They also have buon cha hanoi which is like the usual cold vermicelli with various meats but cha hanoi are these great lemongrass scented patties. It's served the traditional way with the noodles, meat, and veggies seperate and you mix it up yourself as you eat. 14122 Brookhurst St, Garden Grove, CA

            - Banh Cuon Tay Ho: Hands down the best place to get banh cuon. Thin rice paper rolls with or without meat. You have to make sure to get the combo with the fried shrimp/sweet potato...divine. 9242 Bolsa Ave., #F, Westminster, CA 92683

            - Tau Huy Kuy/Mi Quang: This place I'm not sure the name of the place but's in the same plaza as Thanh My Restaurant 9553 Bolsa Ave, Westminster, CA. If you face the plaza it's the far right hand corner...litterally cubbyholed there a few doors down from some hair salon. They have com tam (broken rice) with Tay Huy Kuy (sp) it's formed ground shrimp paste wrappen in bean curd and fried. They also have my personal fave which very other few places have (Quan Hy) called Mi Quang. It's a rice noodle dish on top of a rich pork stew (doesn't cover the noodles...only about 1/3) served in a bowl. Full of flavor.

            I personally don't like quan hy since it's on the salty side. Van's Restaurant sells a few of the same things (banh beo chen) much cheaper.

            10 Replies
            1. re: groover808

              Brodard didn't move, but they opened a new restaurant at Trask/Magnolia called Brodard Chateau. They took over the old Pinnacle Peak restaurant/steak house. It's very different from the original Brodard, with it's hip decor. Plus, I believe they have a full liquor license because they serve many different types of martini's (on the expensive side too, as it was a little over $10 for my lychee martini).

              Inside is deep, dark wood and fancy spot lighting. Quite romantic, good for dates or meeting up with friends in an upscale atmosphere. Prices are adjusted up to match, but the food is still good like at the original. It's worth checking out if you're in the area.

              1. re: groover808

                God, how i miss Trieu Chau restaurant on newhope/1st. I miss the college days when I would eat there once a month. Best

                1. re: eatdrinknbmerry

                  Trieu Chau is still there and crowded as ever. Always a line, but the noodle soup is so good and cheap. Plus, I love the fried donuts you can dunk in the soup, yum!

                  1. re: kingkong5

                    Agree, good and cheap. When I feel like that place I have to drag myself out of bed and get there by 9ish.

                    1. re: groover808

                      Wife and I just went there on Saturday. Got there at 11:50 and were seated at 12:15 (long wait! line was out the door and down the side of the building). By then they had run out of the chinese doughnuts that you can dunk in the soup, but the noodles were still great. They are only open from 7am to 5pm (sooner if they run out of soup, I guess). The noodles are $4.75 to $5.75 depending on what you want in it.

                      1. re: kingkong5

                        Place runs out of the chinese donuts fast! Normally even getting there at 10, they'll still run out at that time. They make them fresh and not greasy...love them. Have you tried the shu mai? That runs out early too, but just a big meatball is some juice. If you feel like something spicy my friend gets the mi or hu tieu sate (pronouced like satay). It's a dry noodle and you pour this spicy peanuty sauce and their are shavings of meat too. Kinda like soupy pad thai but it's spicy and mainly peanut based.

                        1. re: groover808

                          this place sounds more chinese than viet everytime I read more about it. is it a chinese/viet combo type place?

                          1. re: justagthing

                            Could be wrong but Trieu Chau is a chinese province/people that borders Vietnam. I knew someone who was Trieu Chau chinese. Vietnam has its share of noodle soups, but their specialties at this place, Mi and Hu Tieu, are definitely Chinese influenced.

                            1. re: groover808

                              thank you. i think i will need to try this place since there are so many positive posts on this place.

                      2. re: groover808

                        I'd say it's both Chinese and Vietnamese. Trieu Chau is actually Vietnamese for Chiu Chow (or Teochew), a dialect group in the Canton province of China. Many of the overseas Chinese who have lived for generations in Vietnam are Chiu Chow. I don't know if actual Chiu Chow cuisine from China is similar, but I do know that the cuisine from Vietnam of Chiu Chow origin is always tasty and I love restaurants that specialize in it.

                2. Oh...one more place!

                  Capital Seafood: This is a great lunch place for your usual chinese favorites of salt and pepper pork, shrimp and seafood. But the have one of the best canh chua's around. It's a vietnamese fish stew with tamarind. Both sweet and vinegary it's delicious here. Get the vietmanese style canh chua. 8851 Westminster Ave Garden Grove. Off NW corner of Magnolia and Westminster.

                  Sorry, let me give you cross streets for the places I listed above:

                  - Pho Kimmy: NE corner Bolsa and Bushard behind a strip mall.
                  - Com Tam Than Kieu: ABC shopping ctr at Magnolia and Bolsa
                  - Trieu Chau: 1st (which is the same street as Bolsa West of Euclid) and Newhope
                  - Anh Hong: NE side of Brookhurst and Westminster, one more plaza down
                  - Van's: Brookhurst and 15th (Just a block south of Westminser)...in a 2 story plaza with blue eaves
                  - Banh Cuon Tay Ho: Brookhurst and Bushard. Well it's actually in the T&K plaza with the huge red sign at the top. Directly across the plaza from Quan Hy. Where in the movie Fast and Furious the guys drive in to do something sinister.
                  - Unknown Restaurant in Thanh My Plaza. Bolsa and Bushard - strip mall with light teal eaves.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: groover808

                    I like Capital Seafood, too. It's been a couple years since I went there. Was first recommended to me by a co-worker who is Cambodian/ethnic Chinese.
                    Great lunch, but also wonderful seafood with live tanks.

                  2. alright, where to get the best banh xeo?

                    1. Van's Restaurant: Bookhurst and 15th (Just a block south of Westminser)...in a 2 story plaza with blue eaves. Address: 14122 Brookhurst St, Garden Grove, CA

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: groover808

                        I agree, Van's Restaurant has the best banh xeo. However, being vietnamese we end up making these at home as it's much cheaper to make at home and it's very easy. We eat about 4 or 5 banh xeos per person in the family, and Van's charges about $5 per, so it would be very pricey if we ate our fill there.

                        If they would only keep the restaurant clean, it would be worthwhile to go to Van's more often. But usually when you get there, you can see that they haven't swept the floor all day, and it's a mess.

                        1. re: kingkong5

                          Agreed, my mom actually doesn't use store bought rice flour. She soaks rice and water overnight then mixes it up it in the blender for awhile. They come out light and crispy and we get at least a few per person. There's nothing like home cooking but when the mom isn't around it's a substitute. I'll usually share the banh xeo with someone and get another entree.

                          What's funny about that place is the waiters are Mexican and can speak Vietnamese.

                          1. re: groover808

                            Not exactly pho, but about 6 stores down from Banh Mi Che Cali is Mi La Cay. Their duck and noodle bowl comes with a broth with the same magical healing powers as pho. And their spicy mustard is incredible.

                            1. re: FrankDux

                              The best bowl of Pho, IMO, is Than Lich. On the corner of Brookhurst and Hazard. Everytime I experiment with a new place I always think I should have just gone to Than Lich...

                              1. re: JohnnyGourmet

                                I just ate there last night, and it was as good as always. Brought a big group of 11 of my motorcycle friends, we cruised in and were treated right. I got my usual large bowl of Pho Tai Nam Gau Bo Vien, Tai filet de rieng (raw beef, brisket, fatty briskey and meatballs, raw filet mignon on the side). It was great, as always!

                                Pho Thanh Lich is where it's at.

                                1. re: kingkong5

                                  Best Pho in OC? I'd vote for Quan Hop on Brookhurst and McFadden. The meat is really good and the quality of the broth is far superior to the other places I've been. They also have really good Bun Bo Hue and rice cakes. I also recommend the clam salad.

                      2. kingkong5, thanks for the mention of the green tofu pudding in that list linked in an earlier post on this thread. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/341312

                        I was there today and the guy was putting up the green soft tofu in the plastic tubs straight from the vat. I got one tub ($2.50) and...wow, that is some good stuff. I usually get the regular tofu pudding (not green) and slice a cold mango into the hot pudding. I just love the combination of cool fruit, hot soft pudding, ginger syrup. I didn't have a mango today but I bet it would be even better with the green soft tofu.

                        If you like Hien Khanh's che thai, you should swing over to Thai Town for a bigger, icy version at the Bhan Kanom Thai. I bet you'll love it.

                        Where's a good place to get really fresh baked pandan cake? The kind that comes sliced and wraped in plastic. At a lot of places, it seemed kind of hard and sort of stale, but occasionally I'll get that really moist and tender batch that makes me yearn for more.

                        Thanks for the list. You're my new best friend.

                        1. This is a great thread I started 7 years ago, but it needs updating (and focus)

                          How about updated recs for late night pho in little Saigon from oc hounds?

                          Cam on riet niu!

                          Mr Taster

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            I've enjoyed Pho Lu for the last few years and their oxtail or pho dui bo is now on the menu vs underground a couple years back. Per Yelp, open till 3 AM Friday and Saturday nights.

                            The pho ap chao is tasty here too, they pretty much make a fried crispy rice noodle cake and cut into wedges and surround the stir fry part so they stay crispy.

                            1. re: Mr Taster

                              Not an OC hound, but Pho Quang Trung 2 open to midnight for the pho ga! One of the best pho I've ever had: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/977408 (review, and of Pho Lu too that groover808 mentioned).

                              Here's a thread of me asking for late night OC recs: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/971739. You might be able to glean some information from it, since I got responses from OC hounds.