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Aug 21, 2009 12:30 PM

Best places for cà phê sữa dá in the SGV and Little Saigon?

Any recommendations for places with excellent ca phe sua da and good atmosphere in 1) the SGV, and 2) Little Saigon?

So far we've been to Cafe Quynh Nhu and Cafe Xinh Xinh, both recommended by the esteemed Erik M. in a post to CH last year. Both had excellent ca phe sua da, but Xinh Xinh had loud pop music that kind of ruined the experience, and my wife received a little too much unwanted attention at Quynh Nhu, which is a de-facto men's club (at least during the day).

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  1. I like it best when they give you the filter, because you can control the amount of sua in it. And my choice is Vien Dong.

    18 Replies
    1. re: Das Ubergeek

      Thanks! Vien Dong is already high on my list of places to try, based on your praise for their bun cha Hanoi. Sounds like yet another reason to go. Out of curiosity, are they happy for customers to come in just for ca phe sua da?

      1. re: Peripatetic

        I would suspect they would not be very happy. But happily, they serve awesome food too... the best cha gio (which they, being from North VN, call nem ran) in Little Saigon, incredibly good cha ca Thang Long (turmeric-marinated grilled fish with dill and onions and all the accoutrements -- banh hoi noodles and herbs and lettuce and chilies and sweet nuoc cham...) and life-changingly good bun cha Ha Noi, which is banh hoi noodles with herbs and chilies, but with pork and grilled pork meatballs swimming in a papaya-based sweet thin sauce. The smoky flavour, the sweet sauce, the hit of a bit of chile paste... ohhhhhhhhhhhhh God.

        1. re: Das Ubergeek

          Okay, that post just bumped Vien Dong to the very top of my list. It's not a short list, either.

          1. re: Peripatetic

            I finally got to Vien Dong last week and their filter-made ca phe sua da was excellent, as was the food -- definitely worth the 1 hour drive. Thanks again to UG for the recommendation.

            I used to get filter-brewed ca phe sua da at a restaurant in NYC years ago, and had forgotten how superior it was to pre-made. So, question: are there any places in the SGV that have filter-made?

            1. re: Peripatetic

              Does Pho Minh not do it? I'm pretty sure I had filter-made CPSD (hm... is that ca phe sua da, or caffeine priority stress disorder?) there but it's been a while.

              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                They didn't have filter-made the last time I ordered it, although that was around eight months ago. Their premixed was, unfortunately, not particularly good. Too bad, as I go to Pho Minh on average about once a month (was just there this evening in fact.)

                1. re: Peripatetic

                  Well, phooey. That's the only VN restaurant I go to up there since I live down here. What about Com Tam Thuan Kieu?

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    Haven't tried them yet. Do you know whether the com tam at the SGV location is as good as at the Garden Grove one? (If I remember correctly, you're a fan of the latter.)

                    1. re: Peripatetic

                      I don't remember a big difference between SG and GG. Same depressing decor, same great cha (egg and pork and noodle cake), same great lap xuong. But it's been a while -- as I said, I don't get up there much and when I do I don't really eat VN food. :)

                    2. re: Das Ubergeek

                      Finally made it to Com Tam Thuan Kieu in San Gabriel yesterday. Sadly, their ca phe sua da is premixed, and not even very good, either. I suspect they're using non-dairy creamer or maybe half-and-half, but definitely not sweetened condensed milk. Oh well.

                      The com tam was okay, but other offerings we tried were disappointing, particularly the nem nuong and shrimp rolls. Nowhere near the quality of, say, Vien Dong in GG.

                      So, exec summary:

                      1. Cafe Quynh Nhu seems to have the best ca phe sua da in the SGV (so far).

                      2. No one brews ca phe sua da at the table in SGV (as far as I can tell).

                      Someone, please prove me wrong!

                      1. re: Peripatetic

                        Most of the places I go to in the SGV serve it with the filter and it makes better coffee. Vietnam restaurant's coffee is good. Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa is another fave of mine and they don't pre-make it. Actually, it seems like the whole premade coffee thing started in OC. Sometimes it is OK, but usually it is too sweet.

                        The good thing about both of those restaurants is that they have really good food too. Keep in mind that there is plenty of mediocre Caphe Sua Da in Vietnam since most of the coffee houses are just places people hang out so the places don't even try. I've noticed that in Koreatown too. Coffee Houses that are fun places to hang, but not very good coffee.

                        1. re: bsquared2

                          Seriously guys

                          I bought an Aeropress and I instantly retired all THREE of my cafe sua da filters.

                          100% consistency, RIDICULOUSLY strong cafe sua da

                          1. re: ns1

                            word! The Areopress works a treat for cafe sua da (& regular brew too)

                            1. re: ns1

                              ns1, I've heard a lot about the Aeropress (there was a LONG thread on coffeegeek a while back comparing the Aeropress to the Clover (RIP, effectively). I'm really looking for a place to get good coffee while out and about in the SGV. Usually I just get tea at Tea Station. I'll happily abandon the quest for good ca phe sua da if a branch of Intelligentsia opens within a 10 minute drive of Pasadena/Alhambra/San Gabriel. Bulgarini has the only good (non-Vietnamese) coffee I've found in the SGV, but it seems to always cause havoc when I order it, and is variable depending who's pulling the shot.

                            2. re: bsquared2

                              Thanks, will try Nem Nuong Khanh Hoa and Vietnam Restaurant. Both have been on my list for a while, but they just got bumped up.

                              Totally agree about Korean cafes. I love the atmosphere at Heyri and Bosco, but the coffee is dreadful. And costs more than Intelligentsia! Someone mentioned that HAUS has a Clover, but the loud music has always been an effective deterrent. Even then, I'd be surprised if they get the beans/roast/grind right.

                            3. re: Peripatetic

                              That's so bizarre, because their com tam in GG is really very good; I'm getting some for lunch today, I think. I vaguely recall having had filter CPSD there but I could totally be wrong; I usually get soda chanh there to cut the heat of the chilies I'm addicted to.

                              I am trying desperately to remember the name of the Viet restaurant in South El Monte that we used to go to all the time. It's east of Garvey, on the north side, in the same plaza where El Taco Nazo used to be. (I think it's the same plaza as Quynh Nhu, actually). My Va or My Hanh or something like that.

                              They have (or had, it's been some time) filter coffee and also excellent bun cha gio thit nuong with this ridiculously good ground-chile oil on the table.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                I was surprised, too. Not sure what's going on with the SG location.

                                There is a My Hanh at the Garvey Center: . I'll definitely try it.

                      2. re: Peripatetic

                        Since this post I've found the following two places in the SGV have decent filter-made ca phe sua da:

                        Golden Deli
                        815 W Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                        Vietnam Restaurant (_not_ Vietnam House)
                        340 W Las Tunas Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

                        They're both restaurants rather than cafes, though. I would still love to find a good cafe for ca phe sua da.

              2. While I'm normally on the "give you the filter" boat, and I'm a big fan of Vien Dong's, the favorite of my heart - the one I crave most - are the premade ones at Banh Mi & Che Cali. It's less quality than Vien Dong's, but more strangely addictive - I think they have the roast/sweet balance perfect. But *only* the original branch - the one close to the Three Sages mall, in a strip mall behind a Texaco. Not the one in an old taco bell.

                It's to go only, though. Drink it on the way to the beach.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Thi N.

                  Have you tried the one from Nhu Lan? Equally addictive.

                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                    No - I don't think I've even been there.

                    In other news, for a completely different and wonderous ca phe experience, Viet Noodle Bar, which I can never recommend enough. Fresh, handmade soy milk is the base, not the condensed milk. I know at least two people on this board consider it the single worst ca phe sua da in town. It may be because it's totally nontraditional, or it may be just huge variance in taste. Anyway: to me, it's beautiful - the coffee has some of the toastiness, but not enough to knock out the luminosity of really fresh soy milk.

                    I took both my Buddy in Tea, and my Buddy in Bourbon and they both wept soft, white, soy tears of joy, so I know that it appeals to some variances in taste.

                    1. re: Thi N.

                      I like mine with coconut milk ... [duck]

                      1. re: Thi N.

                        Sorry Thi, gotta disagree with both your recs. I love viet's soy tofu curd dessert thing, but found the cafe sua da disgusting at best. I'm interested in giving it another try though and seeing if it was an off day.

                        My mum drinks the one from Banh Mi Che Cali, and I found it too sweet.

                        We used to drink the one from kang lac, but those became too sweet as well. The only to-go cafe sua da that I find agreeable to my palate is from ba le bakery in SGV

                        Other terrible cafe sua da's
                        Lee's, Baguette Express, Mr. Baguette, Trieu Chau (the OG one)

                        1. re: Thi N.

                          Thanks for the rec. Just checking, that's the Atwater Village place, right? I'd be up for trying it, though I do love the traditional version.

                          1. re: Thi N.

                            I'm so ashamed to admit it...

                            ...but I hate soy milk with the fire of a thousand woks.

                            Seriously. The taste is just so... so... so INSIPID. Even freshly-made it's just not good... so I have a feeling that it could not find a happy home for me in ca phe sua dau da.

                            It's funny, because I like tofu. I just hate soy milk.

                            Nhu Lan's is not as sweet as Cali's. Be aware that it is also stronger, which is why they don't fill the cup full -- as the ice melts a bit it makes the drink just so much better, and then you get to have all the sort of granita-esque coffee crunchies at the end. YUM.

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              The only soy beverage I've ever really liked is malted Vitasoy, and that's mostly because I can't resist anything with malt powder in it. That said, I'll still give Viet Noodle's version a try.

                              Is Nhu Lan's ca phe sua da freshly brewed or premade?

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  what about cafe di vang 2 (not to be confused with no.1 or 3)?

                      2. try Gala Bakery on 14570 Brookhurst St. for fast to go cafe sua da if you don't have time for the filter experience as rec by Das.

                        If you don't like the loud techno and unwanted attention and smoke, also avoid the notorius cafe luu and cafe di vang's