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Apr 10, 2009 10:20 AM

Good Girl Dinette: What's Vietnamese diner food?

We tried the brand new Good Girl Dinette in Highland Park last night, and it seemed very promising. This neighborhood really needs some good non-Mexican or South American options, and hopefully Good Girl will be able to deliver. Owner/chef Diep Tran founded Blue Hen in Eagle Rock, which I had never tried. Good Girl puts a little twist on straight-up Vietnamese food, giving it a "diner" twist. The space is modern and airy, just down the street from Antigua Bread in the heart of Highland Park. Right now they're serving an abbreviated menu while they get their sea legs. We started with crispy rice cakes with scallion tofu ($4.50), a nice light appetizer with good soy/sesame oil flavor. The diner side was represented by two pot pies ($10) -- we had the cauliflower curry which was indeed comfort food, with a flaky biscuit crust and mild vegetarian filling. They were serving either vegetarian or chicken pho ($9), and we tried the vegetarian, which could use another jolt of flavor. But it's pretty hard to make good pho without beef, so that wasn't too surprising. Dessert was a really nice round of coconut bread pudding with whipped cream, not heavy or overly sweet like so many bread puddings. There will be some meatier offerings on the expanded menu, like beef stew and braised pork. I forgot to ask but I imagine it's BYOB. The closest comparison is Viet Noodle Bar in Atwater, but prices are a bit more reasonable the food is somewhat heartier.
Banh mi are $7 but they come with fries or slaw, so that seems reasonable.
Good Girl Dinette
110 N. Ave. 56
Highland Park

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  1. Thanks for the report. The place sounds pretty vegetarian friendly -- in tune with Blue Hen.

    The lack of flavor in the veggie pho reminds me of my complaint about the chicken pho at Blue Hen as well.

    I'm interested to see what their banh mi are going to taste like.

    1. I am a big fan of their curry chicken pot pie. The spring rolls were ok, the imperial rolls were better. I think I just like meat too much.

      1. My husband and I had lunch here on Sunday. Very nice room - clean, rather stark actually, but with comfortable seats and pleasant surroundings (it's housed in one of the more beautiful old buildings in Highland Park). To start we tried the fried tofu on rice cakes, which were delicious and unusual (the rice cake being one step away from mochi) and the fresh spring rolls, which were light, beautiful and very very herbal. Nice presentation, too - in fact, the presentation is outstanding for such a modest place.

        My husband had the braised tofu stew, accompanied by brown rice and stir-fried Chinese broccoli, and I had the vegetarian pho. He loved his dish - especially the deep almost curry-like spicing, although that put me off a little. My pho was good, but became great when I added extra fresh lime juice AND a little salt (I'm weird - I carry sea salt with me everywhere). Sometimes all it takes is a bit more acid and salt to make flavors pop, and that did the trick here. They should offer extra lime AND salt as well as hoisin (which I thought was weird) and Sriracha sauces with the pho. Oh - and while some people might disagree, I was glad the pho was only accompanied by one sprig of Thai basil and a little pile of fresh bean sprouts - I always feel horribly guilty when I leave at least half of the huge pile of beautiful herbs which accompany the noodle soups at places like Golden Deli and Vietnam.

        Anyway, we finished with two desserts - a wonderful almond jelly with preserved kumquat and the coconut-banana bread pudding. The almond jelly was perfect on a hot day - the Asian equivalent of panna cotta. The bread pudding was caramel-y and just sweet enough. Oh - and although the only drinks on the menu were fresh fizzy orangeade and limeade, they were wonderful.

        The prices are reasonable and the portions are generous, but we're used to paying at least $25 per person for a good lunch. I hope this restaurant can fly in cost-conscious Highland Park, because it really is a lovely place. And so close to Mt. Washington! We will definitely be back.

        3 Replies
        1. re: soyarra

          Hoisin is standard. It's not for putting in the broth. It's for dipping meats and stuff in once you extract from the broth.

          1. re: soyarra

            I think hoisin for a vegetarian pho is weird... no?

            1. re: jaykayen

              I dip my fake meat in hoisin and hot sauce combo. I like it.

          2. Been twice now. Still can't believe that a fantastic place like this is in our neighborhood.

            Apps are good. Crispy tofu and the fries are excellent. Mushroom imperial rolls were superior to the chicken ones, which were a tad greasy. They're a bit stingy with the lettuce, though.

            Chicken pho was VERY good, and the chicken curry was too. Pork sandwich was also very nice.

            I'm usually too hungry to brave the 30 minute wait for the chicken curry pot pie. (I may actually call ahead next time we go.)

            While the food is really solid, the service is only OK. Food is a little slow getting to the table, but not awfully so. They're still finding their groove it seems.

            Minimalist space and atmosphere, but that's OK. It seems BYOB is OK - others were doing this last time we were there.

            A welcome addition to the neighborhood. Far better than either Vietnamese place in Eagle Rock and just good enough (and uncrowded enough) to keep me from driving to Gingergrass.

            2 Replies
            1. re: italianstallion

              Went there today. Had the Chicken Curry that was pretty good. Really wanted to try the Chicken Pot Pie , but just couldn't wait 30 mins for it to cook.

              Spring Rolls were OK. I really don't like it when they put them in the fridge ahead of time. The rice paper gets really gummy. My wife's Chicken Pho was pretty good too, even through she really doesn't like Pho Ga (she likes beef).

              Overall, I thought it was a good place for the neighborhood. Don't know if I would drive out there just to eat. Really wouldn't compare it to a real Vietnamese restaurant, but if you are looking for some comfort food and you live in the 'hood, this is a good choice.

              1. re: bsquared2

                I went there a few weeks back with a large group; overall, people enjoyed the food but in our party, and speaking to other folks who've been there, the one shortcoming tends to be the service and for whatever reason, it all comes back to those darn (delicious) pot pies. For whatever reason, they are the most consistently blown order - people simply end up not getting them! I don't know if it's because they take so long to prep that they get lost in the system.