Little Saigon: A Tiny Piece of Vietnam in Historic Downtown Glendale

Located between a Chase bank and lime-green tattoo parlor, Little Saigon stands, in all its awe and glory. A relic of my childhood, and one of downtown Glendale’s many shops my family never dared to enter, I decided to eat there recently.

My first time exploring its wondrous cuisine was last year, despite being an Arizona native and living down the street from the restaurant for sixteen years. Since then, I’ve become a regular, now craving their pho and noodle salad dishes.

My last visit, I decided on ordering a #32, the bún bò xào, which translates to stir-fried beef and onions. The dish consists of: thin rice vermicelli noodles, shredded iceberg lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, mint, “fresh Asian herbs,” diced onions, garnished with roasted peanuts and served with a side of sweet fish sauce.

This, along with all the complimentary sauces and other seasonings always located at each table, cost around $8. That price might seem alright, but it’s astounding. With how hungry I was, having not eaten all day until I dined there in the late afternoon, it’s obvious how generous and cost-effective their portions are.

With over one hundred items located on their menu, it’s safe to say there’s bound to be something for everyone, from the picky eater to the adventurous foodie. Guests can choose from a variety of dishes, such as: crepes, pho, stir-fry, salad, seafood, vegetarian options, and so on.

As for drinks and desserts, they offer well-known treats such as macarons, while also presenting less mainstream items such as salted lemonade soda.

With meals usually being $10 or less, Little Saigon exemplarizes that fine dining doesn’t have to be expensive. It goes to show that simple food made with time, dedication and years of experience is bound to be just as delectable and rave-worthy as the more bourgeois end of the restaurant industry.

For me, this small, comforting restaurant makes me feel gleeful, from the colorful fish tank in the waiting area to the wall by the restroom plastered with pictures of memories past. The hospitable servers and cozy setting only strengthen this feeling, beautifully accompanied by rich umami flavors present throughout the menu. The humble abode-turned-restaurant serves as a sense of nostalgia, reminding me of simpler life as a child and the warming broths I ate, the adept culinary curiosity that’s brought me so much joy over the years, and the progression of my life since I first walked by it.