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Dec 16, 2007 03:15 PM

Best Vietnamese in Little Saigon (SF)

My wife and I are interested in the best Vietnamese food for the money in Little Siagon (Larkin and Eddy area). A few years ago we ate at Bodega Cafe and enjoyed it. We returned recently and were somewhat disappointed with the menu - so, we chose to eat next door at Mangosteen. I have the tofu clay pot and my wife had garlic noodles with tofu and vegetables - we were generally happy with our menu choices and the food - walked out having spent $34bucks, appetizer included.
What have you enjoying/recommend in this area.

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  1. People like Turtle Tower on Larkin for pho, I like Pagolac (Ellis and Larkin) but haven't been in a year or so.

    1 Reply
    1. re: P. Punko

      I have a vague recollection that the people who own Pagolac are from Hue...or maybe it was just a woman in the kitchen.

      The "Little Saigon" branding offends me, as if only people from the very south of the country had restaurants in the Tenderloin. Smacks of politics rather than accurate regional cuisine.

      Has anyone been to Mangosteen since they reopened? I used to love their bo luc lac and garlic noodles.

    2. I still like Bodega Bistro, especially for bun cha ha noi and banh xeo. Best value for money? Banh mi at Wrap Delight.

      Wrap Delight
      426 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

      Bodega Bistro
      607 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

      4 Replies
      1. re: david kaplan

        I like Baguette express the best, based on consistency for banh mi, and there is also a Lee's Sandwiches in the neighborhood now. Remember, the pictures on the menu at Baguette Express don't look anything like the sandwiches or what is on them. They are standard banh mi- baguette, meat, daikon, carrots, cucumber, jalapeno, mayo-ish sauce.

        Baguette Express
        668 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

        Lee's Sandwiches
        625 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

        655 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

        1. re: P. Punko

          I would never, ever send anyone to Lee's. The meat I had was gristly, the grilling was substandard, the baguette large and flavorless, the pickles without zing. I don't get up there enough to have tried the other Bahn Mi joints, but I don't plan on going back to Lee's.

          1. re: bbulkow

            Pickles? On bahn mi?

            It's a chain with branches all over California and in Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              I think he meant the pickled veggies.

              And I don't know what type of controls the franchise has in place but the Lee's in Tenderloin tastes nothing like the ones in Southern CA.

      2. Frankly, there is none. Little Saigon has a mix of several banh mi shops and pho shops (including Turtle tower), but most of the places are owned and run by ethnic chinese and thus do not reflect some aspects of vietnamese cooking. There is nothing in the Little Saigon area of San Francisco that even comes close to the San Jose style vietnamese restaurants. A few places do a few dishes okay. Bodega Bistro, while lauded on this board, is a completely confused restaurant with beef tornado and chicken cordon bleu on the menu (along with bun cha and pho). Of the lot, i do baguette express for bahn mi, turtle tower for northern style pho and Bodega for southern style.

        5 Replies
        1. re: grubber4

          What San Jose-style places would you recommend? I find Pagolac to be very good vietnamese, and have never felt the menu o be anything but authentic- have you been?

          1. re: grubber4

            Bodega's menu includes a handful of French dishes, including broiled chicken with mushroom sauce, duck with orange sauce, and bouillabaisse, but not chicken Cordon Bleu or tournedos.

            There's nothing confused about that. They make French and French-influenced food in Vietnam. For example, pho evolved from pot au feu, and bo luc lac from steak au poivre.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Not to mention the baguettes used for banh mi....

            2. re: grubber4

              I don't think you can disparage Vietnamese cuisine executed by ethnic Chinese. A typical ethnic Chinese Vietnamese family is likely to have entered Vietnam around 1937, fleeing the Japanese, and remained there until 1976 when the Vietnam war ended and the Communists took over Saigon. They may have been initially limited in employment options, and thus entered the restaurant business, and had 40 years to get it right. Were it not for ethnic Chinese bringing us Vietnamese food, we wouldn't have a lot of places like The Slanted Door, Bodega Bistro, PPQ, etc.

              Would you rather spend your money at PPQ (ethnic Chinese owned) or Crustacean (ethnic Vietnamese owned?)

              1. re: Xiao Yang

                Oh, i definitely wouldn't disparage at all. I totally agree with your post. It's just that Cholon style Vietnamese food is different from other regional foods of Vietnam. It relies on different flavors, spices and sauces. At the risk of generalizing, that type of food is different (not better or worse). Different noodle types, soy sauce based flavors are all part of the wonderful pallette of Vietnamese food. That's why I brought it up, if that's a person's only exposure to Vietnamese food, they will be shocked when they try other regional or ethnic Vietnamese food.

            3. How does the food at Anh Hong on Geary compare with that at the one in Berkeley?

              Another topic on best Vietnamese in SF:


              Anh Hong Restaurant
              808 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94109

              1. I love the duck leg noodle soup at Hai Ky Mi grubber4 points out, this is actually Chinese Vietnamese food (or Vietnamese Chinese?), but I think this is one of the best deals in Little Saigon. Pretty sure it's lunch-only.

                Hai Ky Mi Gia
                707 Ellis St, San Francisco, CA 94109