Take a side street to Little Saigon
Not as well known as its asian neighbor, Little Saigon offers a unique taste of Vietnam.
San Franciosco’s Chinatown is famous around the world for its concentration of Chinese businesses, art, culture and food. A visit to Chinatown, and a Treasure Walks Chinatown tour, should be a top priority for anybody visiting the city.
But there is another major Asian community living in the heart of the city offering a unique experience that is well worth a visit. The Vietnamese community has grown up in the Tenderloin disctrict over the past 30 years, and since 2004 a stretch of Larkin Street has been officially designated “Little Saigon”.
My trip to Little Saigon focused on food, food, food. I love Vietnamese cooking with its subtle use of lemongrass, mint, star anise and basil. In Charlotte we have a wonderful Vietnamese community and a number of great restaurants, so I like to seek out Vietnamese restaurants whenever possible.
The classic Vietnamese dish is Pho, a bowl of noodles and broth which can be served with beef or chicken. Beef pho is traditional, though it can be served in many different forms, rare, well done, beef balls and even beef brisket. Pho can be spicey (Northern Vietnamese) or aromatic with subtle hints of star anise. It is served with vegatables, fresh herbs and wedges of lime.
You will find pho served at any of the restaurants on Larkin, I visited Pagolac (655 Larkin) on a Saturday evening. The place is a hole in the wall with no attempt at modern restaurant style or glitz, but the food was awesome and inexpensive. Lively friendly atmoshpere and inexpensive food, the house special is 7 flavors of beef. Be warned, on a Saturday night you may have to wait in line for a table. On Sunday I visited Turtle Tower (631 Larkin), not so crowded on a Sunday. I tried chicken pho which was served with a huge bowl of herbs and vegatables, all really fresh and fragrant.
There are many other great places to eat in Little Saigon so take a bus or a tram to City Hall, make your way past the Asian Art Museum and head up Larkin St. You will find most of the restaurants clustered around Larkin and Eddy.