16 Top Little Saigon Restaurants
The range of eating options is staggering in Little Saigon, a Vietnamese wonderland that spans four towns in Orange County: Garden Grove, Westminster, Fountain Valley and Santa Ana. Despite my dozens of trips to the area, there are always new surprises. The depth and breadth in these interwoven neighborhoods continues to astound me, and driving down streets like Brookhurst, Bolsa and Westminster makes it increasingly clear that there are still plenty of restaurants to explore. For now, here are my 16 favorite Vietnamese restaurants in Little Saigon.
View Little Saigon Restaurants in a larger map
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
The spot that nem nuong built has been located in Little Saigon since 1996. In a show of marketing prowess, the Dang family installed an exhibition window in the Mall of Fortune hallway, so potential customers can see women constructing pork meatball spring rolls (Nem Nuong Cuon). The rolls are indeed definitive, complete with char-grilled pork meatballs, crunchy wonton piping, Romaine lettuce, julienne cucumber, carrot and daikon, mint leaves and “house special sauce.” Customers can also order plenty of other Vietnamese dishes surrounded by mammoth flower bouquets and decorative horse paintings.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Nem Nuong Cuon, Chao Tom Cuon, Mien Xao Tom Cua
2. Brodard Chateau:
Diane Dang’s daughter Lisa Dang-Vo helms Brodard Chateau, a more ambitious Brodard spinoff that debuted due north of the 22 Freeway in 2006. The two-story space features a full bar, wood accents, and decorative Vietnamese art. Brodard is the house that spring rolls built, and the Dang family features several varieties at the Chateau, along with a varied menu. If you’ve been to the original Brodard, it’s easy to like the Vietnam-style bustle that the Dang family brings to the Mall of Fortune. However, it’s also nice to have a relaxing alternative, in a more decorative setting (with alcohol), and Brodard Chateau delivers.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Grilled Shrimp Spring Rolls (Chao Tom Cuon), Roasted Duck Spring Rolls (Goi Cuon Vit), Crispy Seafood Egg Rolls (Cha Gio Hai San), Vietnamese Crepe (Banh Xeo), Sole Noodle Soup (Bun Ca), Sizzling Sole (Cha Ca Thang Long)
3. Dat Thanh:
Owners Toan Nguyen and wife Mary are natives of Vung Tau, which is located on the coast, about an hour outside of Ho Chi Minh City. The family farmed before moving to the States, and once they arrived, they ran a clothing factory and Vietnamese bakery that became known for banh mi and iced coffee. Now the Nguyens and son Hoi operate Dat Thanh, which has only six tables and lean decorations that amount to a fan touting a river village and a galloping horse painting. Considering the popularity of Brodard, a Little Saigon institution, it makes sense that other restaurants would attempt to master the pork meatball spring roll, and the Nguyens make a valiant effort. Dat Thanh also specializes in com tam, broken rice grains that are the byproduct of processing. The busted grains were long considered the provenance of the poor, until people realized they’re a worthy vessel for meat, rolls and more. Dat Thanh offers plenty of toppings.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Fried Shrimp Rolls, Nem Nuong Cuon Thu Duc, Com Tam Tau Hu Ky, Tom, Bi, Cha va Bo Dai Han
4. Hue Oi:
The name Hue Oi refers to a city in central Vietnam called Hue, the former seat of royalty, and Oi is a greeting that’s equivalent to “Hey.” The Duong family, including Linh, wife Vinh and son Long, owns the restaurant, which specializes in regional Vietnamese dishes like Bún hến, a rice vermicelli bowl that’s available Friday to Sunday and stars plump baby clams. Two styles of Vietnamese “tamales,” both wrapped in banana leaves, are also interesting. So is a roasted bean drink that Long compared to coffee. My initial visit definitely warranted a return trip to dig deeper, especially now that the Duong family relocated Hue Oi to new digs in Fountain Valley.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Bún hến, Banh Loc La/Banh Nam Combo, Nuoc Dam Van
5. Ngu Binh:
Ngu Binh chef-owner Mai Tran, a native of the central Vietnamese town of Thua Thien, named their restaurant for a mountain in Hue. Ngu Binh resides in a strip mall at the corner of Bolsa & Magnolia and even after a move across the parking lot, remains a high volume restaurant that serves high value food. The streamlined menu features plenty of ingredient overlap, and consistently delivers flavorful rice cakes, soups and plates that display an array of flavors and textures.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Banh Beo Chen, Banh Banh It Kep Banh Ram, Mi Quang Dac Biet, Bun Bo Hue Dac Biet,
Chuyen Nguyen and wife Thuy opened Nuoc Mia Vien Tay in 1996, specializing in fresh pressed sugar cane. The couple hails from Saigon, where Vien Dong Nuoc Mia is the city’s most famous sugar cane juice store. Nuoc Mia means “sugar cane juice” and Vien Dong (“far east”) was taken, and so they opted for Vien Tay (“far west”). The Nguyens lease land in the Imperial Valley to grow sugar cane. To make juice, they repeatedly run stalks of cane through an electric press. Tiny, tart kumquats are sandwiched between the stalks. The resulting juice empties into a pitcher, which is then poured through a strainer two or three times to catch stray pieces of cane. The green nectar is sold in small and large Styrofoam cups, poured over ice.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Nuoc Mia
7. Phat Ky Mi Gia:
Phat Truong opened Phat Ky Mi Gia in 1987 and runs the restaurant with nephew Vincent. Truong also has a restaurant in Saigon, run by his brother in law. The Stateside branch resides in a Little Saigon strip mall and stays open until 3 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The space has red walls, and the restaurant specializes in Chiu Chow style noodle soups filled with hearty combos like black mushrooms and duck, or oxtails with goji berries, greens, bean curd sheets, and fermented bean curd dipping sauce.
MUST ORDER DISHES: My Vit Tiem, Mi Duoi Bo
8. Pho Dakao:
Most pho establishments in Little Saigon showcase beef broth, but the base ingredient occasionally strays to other beasts. Pho Dakao, named for a Saigon neighborhood well known for street food, has two locations that specialize in Vietnamese chicken dishes. The boxy white building has blue accents, tile flooring, glass on all sides, and a greenhouse-like covered patio. People come to Pho Dakao for the food though, not décor. One of the great things about Little Saigon is Vietnamese variety, and that not every place plays to type. Yes, beef pho can be great, but apparently so can chicken pho, especially when the bowls aren’t limited to cuts of poultry you’d find at places like El Pollo Loco.
MUST ORDER DISHES: Pho Ga Long, Pho Ga Kho Long