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May 18, 2007 05:28 AM

Best Vietnamese San Diego

Looking for good pho and other Vietnamese chow in San Diego. Where do you go when you want Vietnamese?

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  1. Pho T Cali on Clairemont Mesa, Pho Pasteur on Linda Vista Rd., and K Sandwiches for banh mi (also on Linda VIsta Rd.).

    1. When I want good pho and Vietnamese...I go to Kirkk's blog... google mmm yoso

      1. Pho T Cali on Clairemont Mesa Drive for pho. Phoung Trang on Convoy for non-pho food. Kirk K's blog for a comprehensive list...

        1. I like Dao Son and K Sandwiches, and I've heard good things about Saigon on El Cajon Blvd - not the fancy one in Hillcrest. I am by no means an expert though. (I wouldn't mind working my way there, but unfortunately my husband doesn't like Vietnamese food nearly as much as I do!)

          Kirk's blog is He writes about a lot of Vietnamese restaurants - if you're lucky, he'll see this and post a response!

          27 Replies
          1. re: Alice Q

            I like Saigon a lot for a wide range of dishes. Catfish in claypot is especially memorable, but I have had a numerous good dishes from there. I also like to encourage folks to explore the smaller, family owned restaurants along El Cajon Blvd. For example Song Huong and Kim Chan both make better banh mi (imho) than K sandwiches. Alot of these smaller places will feature a particular group of dishes or the cuisine from a single region in Vietnam, rather than a wide range of dishes from all over. And yes, Kirk's blog is an incredible resource.


            1. re: Ed Dibble

              Saigon, while probably not the best Vietnamese in the city, is always solid. I love Dao Son, but they specialize primarily in Vietnamese rice dishes and Japanese soups. I have always had good food at Phuong Trang as well.

              1. re: naven

                PHO HOA HIEP on the North side Mira Mesa Blvd just East of I-15 near Denny's has the best tasting broth and sliced ribeye beef in it.. As well as, the freshest and crispiest Basil, culuntro, and bean sprouts of any of the other Pho shops anywhere else in town. And a second bowl is half price, if you there are two of you.

                1. re: nutrition

                  they used to be buy one get one free about 3 years ago. But each bowl is roughly 6.50 which is 1-2$ more than most other pho places.

                  1. re: clayfu

                    Having worked in restaurants, I often wonder how they can stay in business at those prices, which were only raised about a year ago. For one, I appreciate, the high quality of the food compared to those other cheaper places you compare them to.

                    1. re: nutrition

                      You are paying the extra prices for the location and its corresponding rent. If the place has an "A" rating, the quality of the food is the same depending on the cook. I would go to Mien Trung, a literal hole in the wall on Mesa College Drive over Saigon on Fifth any day. The taste is why I eat, not the 'see and be seen' aspect of a place.

                      1. re: Cathy

                        I really don't understand what you are referring to, since PHO HOA HIEP has nothing to do with being seen, etc. It is strictly an excellent place to have some GQQD food.
                        The only time you might see a celebrity is when I am there! :)

                        1. re: nutrition

                          nutrition, this was a wonderful rec. Thank you! Three of us ate there the night before last. The food was very good! We each had a bowl of pho and I ordered an extra order of shrimp and pork with rice vermicelli noodles. We had tea and our daughter had a soda. After tax (and with the generous half off discount), the total came to less than $20. I can't remember the exact amount, $19.40? I did not have any sense that this was a seen and be seen place. It was a wonderful and healthy meal. thank you. We will be back on a future trip to the area!

                        2. re: Cathy

                          Big fan Cathy. However, I have to disagree on the "A" rating having anything to do with the food. It cleaning, food storage, employee hygine, etc, but has nothing to do with the food quality, saftey yes quality or "goodness" no.


                          1. re: stevuchan

                            Right, Steve. I was more commenting that being cheap (inexpensive) had nothing to do with quality food. I will try *any* location (no matter how scary it looks) as long as it also has an A in the window. Then I see if it is quality or not, as well as what the price is. (I guess you are one of those 'lurkers', eh?)

                            1. re: Cathy

                              pho hoa hiep just happens to be the cleanest Vietnamese restaurant, that I have ate in the whole city. There are no dirty tables with leftovers or dirty dishes, and piles of used napkins upon arrival unlike the busier places down the Blvd.. The staff cleans up as soon as the party pays their bill and leaves. I like that.

                              Doubt if it has much to do with the 'A' rating, that you refer to. It is just the way they do things! The bonus of the freshest crispy green produce without browned leaves speaks for their quality. I have never been served limp tired basil or cilentro, which happens often elsewhere.
                              Overall, I think you can eat there in total confidence of the quality, and cleaniness. Nor be concerend about the quantity, since it is plentiful. Hence, I ask for only HALF the noodles. My Mother raised me NOT to waste food!

                              1. re: nutrition

                                Oh god...I didn't mean say PHH was dirty. The natureof my comment was about your comment about staying in business with such low prices is all.

                                The prices reflect not only ingredents, but rent also. A lot of the charge goes into paying that.

                                Places like Mien Trung look scary and dirty from the outside and everything costs less there ($4.50 for pho) and the food is as high or higher quality than Saigon on Fifth where you pay in excess of $8 for a bowl of pho.

                                That was all I meant.

                                1. re: nutrition

                                  Nutritiion, you are right about the noodles. They seemed to go on forever. Even though I ordered the small bowl, I thought they had made a mistake and given me a large. I had to have help. I think my husband ate more than half the noodles for me. I too, hate to leave food and waste it. Thanks again for the wonderful rec. We loved this place and will go back on a future visit to San Diego.

                                  1. re: nutrition

                                    have you ever had lucky pho? i'm curious as to a comparison. I'm a devotee to lucky, but have always been curious about pho hoa hiep. since they're in close proximaty i've always gone to lucky.

                                    1. re: daimyo

                                      No I have never eaten at Lucky; don't know where it is but I was happy to have a recommendation that was near my hotel on Mira Mesa. If you would be kind enough to share the location and address, I promise to give it a try when I am back in San Diego next month and report back. I was quite happy with pho hoa hiep and grateful to nutrition for the rec. Thanks.

                                      1. re: daimyo

                                        I believe you are referring to the pho shop in the corner of the large Lucky Seafood grocery store in the mall behind the gas station at the corner of Black Mountain Rd and Mira Mesa Blvds. Since it is a hop and skip down the mall from my Vietnamese barberl, I have stopped in a couple of times for a bowl after shopping for various Tea bags for traveling, like Oolong, Green, White, Jasmine, and Ti Kuan Yin (several similiar spelling variations). The last one is my very favorite. Lucky stocks several better grades of the tea bags and they make 2-3 cups of tea, whereas the cheaper grade of YamamotoYama has a weaker taste. Generally I ask for a mug of hot water in non Asian restaurants. The ever present Lipton tea is NOT an option for me. I would drink water before that stuff. You can have some fun shopping for the various other goods stocked in the store from kitchen supplies to booze. Many imports. A lot of those little bowls, that work for olives, relish, kimchi, etc. They also have a rather large section of freshly prepared foods for takeout in the store adjacent to the restaurant section.

                                        As for the PHO, It is good at Lucky's, but I always end up judging that Pho Hoa Hiep is a notch or two better over all! Therefore, I do not think of Lucky as the best destination, but admit it is better then all the other places very close by.

                                        Again, I have found the greens at Pho Hoa Hiep to be the very freshest, crispiest and tastiest with NO brown spots on the leaves of any of the places. Perhaps the Family recipe perfected over many many years has something to do with the High rating, that I give it.

                                        :) :) :)

                                        1. re: nutrition

                                          The Pho Hoa Hiep on Mira Mesa Blvd is closed. I will miss it, but always remember it!

                                          The God's smiled down on me and I found another place, that was an instant FAVORITE! Stay tuned for additional information.

                                          1. re: nutrition

                                            eh it's kinda whatevers. . We used to go almost everyday back.. 5 years ago when they had buy one get one free!

                                            My favorite pho place.. is.. Pho Ha Cali on black mountain road/Mira Mesa. Always hot steaming bowl of wonderful soup and delicious spring rolls.

                                            btw for food ratings, C stands for Chinese. That's how i know its authentic and tasty.

                                    2. re: Cathy

                                      I would not consider myself a lurker, I post frequently, although just back from an extended vacation. Liars Club for a while had a B rating, I believe they revieced it for improper bread storage, and handed out by an over zealous inspector, did not stop me from eating there. To each his own.


                                      1. re: stevuchan

                                        Oh, I have a friend who was in Inspector for Food and Drug and the smallest thing will get you a B rating, I know. I was more thinking of scary looking neighborhoods...that combined with a less than A is reason for me not to try food there. The rating will change and then I will go back. In daylight.

                                        1. re: Cathy

                                          Does San Diego has any scary looking neighborhoods ?

                                            1. re: daantaat

                                              To be honest there are some neighborhoods which are more run-down and I would be a little bit more careful but there is no neighborhood I would completely avoid (even at night) in SD.

                                              1. re: honkman

                                                honkman, I was being faceitous on my earlier post.

                                            2. re: honkman

                                              Um...yes. When there are bars on the windows on the second floor of houses...that's a clue.

                                            3. re: Cathy

                                              Umm...not quite the "littlest things". The inspections by the health department are specific and based on risk to the eating public. The form has about 20-30 specific things the inspector is required to look for. It includes things like temperature, are all the frigerators and/or freezers in proper working order and maintaining temps; are things stored properly, i.e cooked food above raw food, are things covered, dated, and in appropriate placed (do you really want the food you eat stored in the bathroom); is there any evidence of infestation by fermin (which truly are everywhere); is the water temperature correct coming out of the faucets and in the dishwashing facilities; is all the equipment in working order; does the plumbing work; is there mold in the ice machine (more common than you think); is food not under refrigeration (such as mise en place in a station) at the right temperature; is any cooked food pending service at the right temperature; and so on. The list is enormous. There are 200 points available on the inspection sheet, a major violation is an 8 point deduction a minor one 4 points. At the conclusion the health inspector divides the total in half and if the place as 90 or more points it get's an A rating.

                                              I know Clayfu was joking with C = Chinese but a C rating means there are some substantial problems wtih the facility both from a food handling stand point and the structural building. These definitely fall into the scary/risky category and are mostly likely super hole in the wall spots. You don't see many C ratings because they often get closed before it gets to that.

                                            4. re: stevuchan

                                              I am a lot more careful anywhere in LA, since moving from there about 15 years ago. I don't even like to drive there. Seems like the drivers are more aggressive, and the streets/freeways are TOO crowded with slow traffic.

                          2. Friends love Rice Jones in Hillcrest and Mission Gorge....I have not been but been meaning to go..
                            My Manicurist who is Vietnamese says that the only good V restaurants are at their homes..
                            I tip her big so I might get that invite one day!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Beach Chick

                              Rice Jones moved from Mission Gorge to Hillcrest, and they're completely gone now. As far as I know, they've not relocated.

                              1. re: phee

                                so they are not in Hillcrest either?
                                wow..thanks for the update!

                                1. re: Beach Chick

                                  No, sadly. I think they should have stayed on Mission Gorge. They did a thriving business there. I believe they left Hillcrest due to high rent.