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May 23, 2010 02:54 AM

Chandler / Vietnamese -- Hot Spots

Though visiting Disney with the family, I snuck out the past two nights to hit some late-night Orange County Vietnamese -- of which there's a shocking amount -- and am feeling particularly inspired.

There's more to Vietnamese than pho, and it seems like there's an awful lot of territory in Chandler and Mesa that needs exploring. But I could use a little help identifying where to start. I know there are a few Vietnamese restaurants in the mall with Mekong and it looks like there's more by Lee Lee and around that Warner/Dobson corner, but if the community can support two markets that big, there have to be more.

I'm trying to feed some keywords into Google maps and I'm finding lone joints here and there, but I'm not coming up with any densely-populated stretches. Can anybody who lives down there or spends time down there point out any geographical hot spots? Has anybody noticed any other areas where multiple Vietnamese restaurants are clustered?

Also, has anybody done a good, comprehensive sweep of the area? I'm finding very little info (though this may be more a function of my searching skill) and it's almost exclusively pho. I'm thinking it's time to do some digging and would love to know if anybody has a good head start.

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  1. A couple of obvious places to start:
    1. Lee's Sandwiches is across Warner from the Lee Lee market. Forget the Euro style sandwiches and go for the Vietnamese Bahn Mi. Order extra meat and enjoy. Inexpensive and great.
    2. Cyclo on Chandler Blvd just east of the 202. Some on this board say it's slipped in the last year but I've found it very good and dependable.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Phoenix99

      Anise (Dobson and Warner, across from Lee Lee's
      Blue Moon (Dobson & Main, across from Mekong Plaza)
      Pho Ao Sen (Dobson & Baseline)
      Pahu Thanh (Southern & Country Club)
      Khai Hoan (Apache & McClintock)
      Saigon Pho on Alma School and Knox (S of Warner)

      There's no cluster of them in a single spot besides the intersection on Dobson & Warner or Dobson & Main by the two markets. I'd say they are scattered up and down Dobson from Chandler to Mesa.

      Pahu Thanh
      830 W Southern Ave, Mesa, AZ 85210

      Khai Hoan
      1537 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ 85281

      Saigon Pho
      1381 N Alma School Rd Ste 3, Chandler, AZ 85224

      Pho Ao Sen
      1955 W Baseline Rd Ste 114, Mesa, AZ 85202

      1. re: vibrant

        Too bad there isn't a more cohesive neighborhood, so to speak, but that's a very helpful list...thanks. Somebody else (feel free to jump in) had mentioned there's a chunk near Ahwatukee... anybody been to any of those?

        1. re: Dmnkly

          It's one of those things you get used to after living in Phoenix for a while. Some places have hot spots, we have general warm areas. The one area we have that's closest to a hot spot of any sort at all is the Chinese Cultural Center, which isn't so much a Chinatown as it is a Chinablock.

          1. re: Dmnkly

            I would add Pho Dalat to vibrant's list, and as it's in SE Tempe at Kyrene and Elliot, that's pretty close to Ahwatukee. Crazy happy hour specials -- you can eat there very well and inexpensively. They and Khai Hoan have my favorite Vietnemese food in the east valley.

            Khai Hoan
            1537 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ 85281

            1. re: themis

              Here's a great example... there's a thread on Khai Hoan (with very little detail about the food, other than a synopsis of the offerings), and the only mention of Pho Dalat I can find is that their roast quail made somebody's list of best dishes in Phoenix.

              So is it just that nobody's writing about these places?

              Khai Hoan
              1537 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ 85281

              Pho Dalat
              7707 S Kyrene Rd, Tempe, AZ 85284

              1. re: Dmnkly

                Well, the last several threads we had inquiring about pho or Vietnamese food, we have been repeatedly told that there is nothing here to compare to southern California. It appears that the rudest post has been deleted. In the face of that kind of closed-mindedness, it's hard to stand up and volunteer a new discovery. People don't tend to enjoy having their preferences disparaged, and I feel like arguing with a poster on the internet is the equivalent of winning the Special Olympics. Sure, you may wind up with the gold medal, but people will still find you both pitiable. I don't tend to write about my favorite taco trucks and dives here, either; there doesn't seem to be much of an audience.

                But you asked nicely, and you genuinely seem open to the voyage of discovery. I hope you find what you're looking for!

                While I agree that we don't enjoy the same density of Vietnamese restaurants here, I disagree that rarer menu items can't be found. Perhaps my palate is flawed or less refined than others, but I have never had any issue describing a dish and having it brought to me, just as good as the version I enjoyed in my travels. You make friends with the kitchen that way, too, and pretty soon they're happy to see you when you arrive.

                Also, you may be missing a little two-block concentration of Vietnamese shops around Maryville, a neighborhood in Glendale. Once again, not really a locus of restaurants, just a place where a lot of the signs are in Vietnamese. None of them really have a web presence and because most of the posters here are east, north, and central valley -- they may not have ever had a chance to stop and try them.

                1. re: themis

                  We miss you, themis. Please don't let one person's lack of tact keep you from contributing.

                    1. re: hohokam

                      Oh, it doesn't keep me from offering up my opinions, much! I realize now I ought to just suck it up. Taste in pho is just as subjective as anything else; all of our opinions are valid, right? Right.

                      Pho 43 was the specific place I was thinking of in Maryville. 43rd Ave and McDowell, cash only, service is creative, like all the best Vietnamese kitchens.

                      1. re: themis

                        Thanks so much for the tip. We were in the area on Presidents' Day and had great pho and good bun bo hue at Pho 43. Nice friendly little place. We never would have found it without your mention here.


          2. re: Phoenix99

            Lee's I've visited (solid, but not overly impressed, personally speaking), but I'll add Cyclo to the list.

          3. I've been to Lee's, Cyclo, and Khai Hoan, and like them all, for what they are. I've been planning on hitting some of the midtown options like Tu do, Davang, and Maxim.

            Tu Do, 7828 N 19th Ave

            Davang Coffee Shop
            4538 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85015

            Khai Hoan
            1537 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ 85281

            Maxim Restaurant
            3424 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85015

            2 Replies
            1. re: johnseberg

              I think I went to Tu Do once. I never went back, so it probably wasn't as good as Davang, one of my favorite Vietnamese places in town. Maxim is good (I love their fried spring rolls), but they don't have banh mi. Pho Thanh is pretty good as well. I've only been once a week or so ago, but it got a great review in the New Times this week.

              1. re: Firenza00

                Thanks Firenza. I noticed banh mi on the menu at Pho Thanh - that'll probably get me in the door.

            2. I've been to the following Vietnamese restaurants in metro Phx. Each one has it's strong points, with the exception of Cyclo where I had a rather unpleasant experience and just can't bring myself to try it again.

              Da Vang - Phoenix
              Khai Hoan - Tempe
              Saigon Pho - Chandler
              Pho 68 - Chandler
              Pho Chandler - Chandler
              Cyclo - Chandler
              Lee's Sandwiches - Mesa

              and two of the restaurants at Mekong (can't remember the names) - but *not* UnPHOgettable

              Would like to get over to Maxim someday, but it's far from me.

              Khai Hoan
              1537 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ 85281

              Pho 68
              2025 N Dobson Rd, Chandler, AZ 85224

              Pho Chandler
              4055 S Arizona Ave, Chandler, AZ 85248

              1. Dmnkly,

                Don't even try to compare Southern California Vietnamese with what can be found in the Valley.

                It's like trying to compare that pothole on Camelback with the Grand Canyon. Just doesn't compare, and it would be silly to do so.

                What's found in the Valley can only be said to be in its prehistoric phase when compared to the vibrant and mature Southern California Vietnamese dining scene.

                9 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  No, of course that would be absurd. I don't expect to find a vibrant Vietnamese scene like L.A. any more than I expect to find a horde of spectacular blue crab shacks like Baltimore. But at the same time, there are enough places out there that I have to believe there are a couple of gems as a sheer matter of numbers

                  Perhaps my impression is amiss, but I get the feeling that many of these places are largely unexplored, and those that are -- at least from posting I can find online -- have been almost exclusively mined for pho, banh mi, cha gio and goi cuon. Which are wonderful, of course, but it's kind of like reading about a bunch of Italian joints and only hearing about their caprese, bolognese, saltimbocca and tiramisu. Or, at least, those who are checking them out in more depth aren't writing about it (or I just suck at finding it -- entirely possible).

                  Anyway, like I say, I'm not expecting to find a deep and diverse scene. But I bet there are one or two really good places out there (Da Vang, IMHO, isn't one of them). And while it's incredible when you have a huge scene like there is in L.A., it just takes a couple of great places to scratch the itch.

                  1. re: Dmnkly

                    There just isn't the Vietnamese population in the Valley to foster the more diverse and unknown aspects of Vietnamese cuisine.

                    For example, even something like 7 courses of beef (or fish) is rather pathetically pedestrian in Vietnamese restaurants in Phoenix. And dishes like Bun Cha Gio, Banh Beo Dia, Banh Tom Co Ngu. Bun Cha Ha Noi, or things like trung duc and ca kho to and bo tai chanh are almost nowhere to be found on menus.

                    Even with something as popular (and quasi main stream) as pho, most non-Vietnamese Valley diners take to it like a typical 10 year old to a plate of steamed broccoli.

                    The best pho in the area is at Maxim, and the owner won't even sell you the real deal until you beg and plead and do the super secret "pho-is-not-meant-to-be-like-ramen" handshake with the dude. :-)

                    Good luck in your quest.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Went to Khai Hoan last night, in the search of good Pho

                      Had a great expereience there, and will be back.

                      Had Pho #1 aka super with everything which was very good and had the ice viet coffee which came out traditional which was great, nice and strong

                      Also had the spring rolls with peanut sauce - peanut sauce could have used a bit more vinegar but was still pretty good and they were actually the proper size instead of the little things half the places we have been to serve

                      the egg rolls were forgetable, so i would avoid those

                      overall had a good experience and will definetly be back, it isnt SoCal but that was the best Pho I have found yet at a very good price, they were fully packed at around 7-730 on a friday so seems like they are doing well

                      Khai Hoan
                      1537 E Apache Blvd, Tempe, AZ 85281

                      1. re: Dapuma

                        went to unphogettable as khai hoan isnt open sundays

                        very nice inside, and the staff was very pleasent - and that certainly made me want to go back again...onto the food

                        Got spring rolls / egg rolls / pho to give it a basic overview on first time there

                        Compared to Khai, the broth was not as good they didnt have enough lemongrass in the broth IMO, also the meat and veggies were less compared to Khai

                        The eggrolls were better than Khai, first decent egg roll i have had outside of the Mrs's in awhile

                        Spring Rolls, the peanut sauce was off, stil havent found a spring roll i would consider ordering on a consitant basis, but Khai's are a bit better, but i wouldnt order either again (although i do have the luxury of getting really good ones at home :)

                        Overall I would pick Khai over Unphogettable

                        66 S Dobson Rd Ste 140, Mesa, AZ 85202

                    2. re: Dmnkly

                      From reading this, I think you might find Anise to be worth the trip in your quest. The menu is diverse and surprising.

                      I am surprised that DragonFly (dobson & southern in Mesa) hasn't been mentioned. Perhaps that is because their Pho is (IMO) overly spiced with 5 spice powder and is really pretty awful. HOWEVER, the non-soup dishes I've had at DragonFly were wonderful. It has been awhile since we've visited, so things may have changed.

                      1. re: jkgourmet

                        I highly recommend Anise in general. It's one of the few restaurants of any kind where I have to close my eyes and blindly poke at the menu to decide what to order. It could be that it's too Americanized, I don't know enough to say but everything I've had there was a winner. The ingredients are so fresh I'd believe they have a greenhouse in the back.

                        1. re: AguasFrescas

                          Dropping in a place link for Anise

                          Anise Vietnamese Restaurant
                          2090 N Dobson Rd Ste 4, Chandler, AZ 85224

                          1. re: hohokam

                            Thanks hohokam. Unfortunately I just found out that Anise has closed. They left a message on their Google page.

                            "Dear customers, We are sad to cease our service to you all, as of 12/31/2010. Thank you for your supports. We could no longer sustain the high rent incurred. - From the owner"

                            1. re: AguasFrescas

                              Okey doke. Thanks for the heads-up. I've updated the Places database entry.

                  2. This was my mini tour awhile back after moving here from Boston. It's been about 3 years now and the only place my wife and I consistantly go to now is Saigon Pho. We've tried Cylco a few times since but stopped going after service issue when my parents were in town visiting. Hope this helps.


                    Saigon Pho
                    1381 N Alma School Rd Ste 3, Chandler, AZ 85224

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