MY FAVORITE thing about Los Angeles is that it is home to Saigon Dish, arguably the best Vietnamese restaurant with the best prices in Los Angeles. The small restaurant is located in Lawndale off of Hawthorne Boulevard and Manhattan Beach Boulevard. I discovered Saigon Dish when I was fifteen and have been a repeat customer ever since, and is the first restaurant I go to if I have been out of town for a while. However, the delicious food is not the only reason I find my self returning for the high school special, which is not on the menu and is known by few.
The owner John remembers every face and name of his returning customers, even if they’ve only come in once before, and he somehow creates the feeling of eating at a good friend's house and not in a room full of strangers. John will also have a chat with you before asking you for your order, though if you are a repeat customer he probably already knows what you want. The restaurant is decorated in a simple fashion. There is a row of tables on each side of the restaurant and in the middle, tables are pushed together for big parties or when the lunchtime rush arrives. Each table has Sriracha sauce, Brown sauce, and chili paste, and red and white paper placemats with the Chinese zodiac. There are two paintings, one on each wall. Saigon Dish doesn’t need to try very hard to draw in customers like other Vietnamese restaurants that need catchy and comical names like “Pho Sho” or “Pho Ever.” People keep returning because of John’s hospitality (which is hard to find in a restaurant these days) and the inexpensive and tasty food.
Nothing on the eight-page menu is over ten dollars. The most expensive dish is called Com Bo Luc Lac, which is marinated diced cubes of filet mignon, stir-fried onions and rice, and goes for $9.90. But if you know about the high school special, you can get a smaller portion of this plus a small warm bowl of Pho, which is a noodle soup, usually served with thinly sliced beef that cooks in the broth of the soup for under ten dollars! And if you are really hungry you can ask for a bigger sized portion of either the Pho or the beef for a little bit more. Everything on the menu tastes fresh from the Pho to the spring rolls. And usually when you find yourself in a restaurant that offers cheap food they only accept cash, but this little gem accepts cash or plastic. The only flaw I can find with Saigon Dish is that it is closed on Sunday. I have tried plenty of other Pho restaurants in Los Angeles, New York, and even London, but nothing comes close to the taste or atmosphere of Saigon Dish. I recommend all lovers of Pho and Vietnamese food, and those who have never tried it to go check this place out, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed and might find yourself returning on a weekly basis like myself.
-Photo Credit: Nastassja Habers (I couldn't resist eating some and putting Sriracha sauce all over my food before i snapped a picture.)