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What to Eat in Sacramento’s Little Saigon

From crispy banh xeo to boiled crawfish, here’s your guide to consuming it all

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Banh Mi
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Only eight cities in California have officially recognized “Little Saigon” areas, and despite not being known as a bastion of culinary sophistication (yet), California’s capitol became one of them in 2010. In Sacramento, that designates a two mile stretch of Stockton Boulevard in South Sacramento as the cultural and culinary center of the Vietnamese immigrant community. Other cultures, including Cambodian and Lao restaurants, share space in this area as well, making it a dining destination for a variety of discerning diners.

Here are some spots to hit up for Vietnamese dishes of all kinds; some of them are to the north or south of the official bounds of the designated Little Saigon, but you needn’t stray from Stockton Boulevard to eat like royalty.

Want more dining guidance in Sacramento? Check out these Essential Restaurants of Sacramento.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Phở Saigon Restaurant

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5304 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95820
(916) 457-5580
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Pho Saigon seemed to go downhill a bit when it changed owners a couple years back, and it’s fallen off the rotation for some. Still, if you like your pho aromatic and heavily spiced, this may be your jam. The pho dac biet (special) has a good mix of meat, although their rare steak is not really served rare but fully cooked in the broth. For tendon fans, they do something magical to their tendon that renders it to a delightful gummy texture, with no off “barnyard” flavor.

2. Pho Xe Lua

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5331 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95820
(916) 451-8838
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The sign outside of Pho Xe Lua sports a kitschy steam train drawing, and the dark brown pho broth brings a freight train of beefy flavor to your mouth. Get the oxtail pho to up the bovine quotient and have fun picking the chewy meat nuggets off the bone. The spicing of the broth is subtle, for those who prefer more cow and less star anise in their pho.

3. Phở Bolsa Restaurant

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5815 Stockton Blvd # A
Sacramento, CA 95824
(916) 451-7985

It would be hard to determine which restaurant earns the title of “oldest continually operating Vietnamese restaurant in Sacramento,” but Pho Bolsa is certainly a contender. While they may have been the introduction to pho to many non-Viet Gen-Xers, these days they are mostly known for being one of the few places in Sac that serves cha ca la vong (a dish for two of grilled, turmeric-flavored catfish served with heaps of dill and scallion) and for their satisfying bun rieu. This noodle soup’s broth is flavored with tomato, and topped with succulent freshwater crab. It’s served with a plate of fine-chopped romaine lettuce; add the whole portion to lend a texturally contrasting crunch.

4. Pho 1920

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6175 Stockton Blvd #270
Sacramento, CA 95824
(916) 431-7788
Visit Website

Pho 1920 is the new kid in town and it’s shaking things up. The unusual name refers to the history of pho, which is elucidated in text on the menu as having both French and Chinese roots in late 19th/early 20th century northern Vietnam. The broth is less sweet and spiced than is typical, and proudly lacking in MSG. The chef’s special beef noodle soup (as it is called on the extremely short menu, in English and Chinese characters, with no mention of the word “pho”) comes with chewy brisket only and is topped with shoestringed raw red onion and chopped cilantro leaves and stems, with choice of customary thin pho noodles or flat, fresh noodles billed as “chow fun.” The lack of depth in the broth (perhaps due to the absence of MSG) is mitigated by a dollop of housemade, tangy chili sauce, which is also sold to take home at the counter.

5. Quán Nem Ninh Hòa Restaurant

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6450 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 428-3748
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Eating at Quan Nem is best with two or more, because the roll-your-own spring rolls are interactive and meant to be a communal affair. The house special is what most order, and it comes with some of the tastiest nem nuong cuon (charbroiled ground pork skewers) around. Soak the rice paper in water until soft and fill with your choice of meat, herbs and vegetables, do chua (pickled daikon and carrot), vermicelli, and two tiny, precious nem chua (sour fermented pork sausage embedded with whole chilies and garlic cloves). The challenge is in trying to achieve the optimal combo of flavors in every bite while making a roll of manageable size and neatness. Pescatarians can order fish cakes with the special (rather than pork), and the banh beo (rice cake topped with dried shrimp) appetizers are a delicious starter.

6. Co Do

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6665 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 427-8305

Mi quang heo is a dish with a lot going on. There are soft, slippery textures (wide, flat turmeric noodles) and crispy crunch provided by peanuts and sesame rice crackers. The rich flavors of ground pork and shell-on shrimp are a contrast to fresh mint and raw, sliced banana blossom and cabbage. The small cup of hot pork broth served on the side is meant to be poured over, and binds it all into a dish that you’ll think about for days afterward. In addition to mi quang heo, fans of bun bo hue should get that too.

7. Phở King 2 Restaurant

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6830 Stockton Blvd #180
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 395-9244

Although the late, great, “cow pizzle” salad has been taken off the menu, the bo tai chanh (raw beef with lemon juice salad) is still being served and is still one of the best salads in the greater Sacramento area. This salad is mostly raw herbs (Thai basil, cilantro and rau ram) and sliced white onions, with the shreds of raw beef used more as a garnish than a main attraction. The raw onions are lightly pickled in the citrus dressing, which mellows them and removes the bite (and, thankfully, mitigates inevitable onion breath). This dish is a sublime mix of sweet, tart, salty and spicy, piled on the provided shrimp crackers. Pho King 2 is also known for its bun bo hue.

8. Pho Anh Dao

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6830 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823

There’s really no need for a menu at Pho Anh Dao: Just get the pho ga (chicken pho) – either with white meat, dark or a combo. There is sometimes a wait for seating in the mornings, and occasionally the chicken pho runs out and they close early. The lovely, clear broth, swimming with scallion and woody cilantro, can be further brightened with a squeeze of lime, but no other flavoring is warranted. It is perfect, and perfectly nourishing. Cash only.

9. Giò Chả Đức Hương Sandwiches

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6825 Stockton Blvd #200
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 428-1188

This banh mi cafe has mastered all things pork. The banh mi thit nuong (grilled pork) has got a smoky char to it and they sell house made pork liver pate in tubs from the deli case, along with tubs of golden butter. Go next level and order a banh mi with just pork, butter and veggies for a strong liver hit. Duc Huong is notable for having a regular foot-long size and also cute-as-a-button teeny sandwiches for only $2.25, and also for making a highly decent banh mi chay (veggie sandwich) with sautéed shiitake mushrooms and tofu skin.

10. Bánh Cuốn Tây Hồ Restaurant

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6840 65th St #125
Sacramento, CA 95828
(916) 395-1188
Visit Website

This is the undisputed spot in Sac for silky, hand-rolled rice noodle sheets. The dac biet gives you a sampling of three different varieties (shrimp paste, pork-and-wood ear mushroom, plain), which you can dunk in or douse with nuoc mam (sweetened, tangy fish sauce). It also boasts banh tom khoai chien (shredded sweet potato and shrimp fritters), cake-y mung bean fritters, and an uber-tasty, sour nugget of fermented pork sausage studded with whole peppercorns.

11. Cơm Tấm Thiên Hương

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6835 Stockton Blvd #430
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 476-4258

Com tam (broken rice) is so much more than just a serving of cheap rice that was broken in the milling process. It is traditionally served with an array of side dishes, and at Com Tam Thien Huong you should go for the dac biet that comes with all of them, because they are all exceptional. You should not have to choose between the egg cake shot through with jelly noodles, the shrimp cake encased in crispy-fried tofu skin, the toasty pork skin shreds, the lemongrass-laced pork skewers, or the shrimp meatball grilled on sugar cane—get them all. They also serve an elegant version of the Chinese- inspired dish Hainan chicken rice (uncommon in this area) and the best soda xi muoi (sparkling salty plum drink) going.

12. Huong Lan Sandwiches

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6930 65th St # 1401
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 429-9999
Visit Website

Lengthy lines for banh mi, catered to with brisk efficiency, are the norm at lunch time at Huong Lan. The secret is to grab a table, order from a server, and eat your sandwich at leisure. The ultra-sweet, lusciously fatty grilled pork at Huong Lan is unique to them and either loved or loathed for the marbled fattiness, but the quality of the bread and distribution of toppings for the banh mi can be uneven.  Grab a banh mi at Duc Huong or Long Sandwich and order banh hoi thit nuong (grilled pork over rice noodles) at Huong Lan. It’s the same pork that goes in the sandwiches, on noodles with salad, herbs and fish sauce dressing.

13. Sixteen Degrees Fahrenheit

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6905 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 917-5578

This is one of those liquid nitrogen-cooled rolled ice cream spots, but it also serves fresh-squeezed nuoc mia (sugar cane juice), either plain for jazzed up with fruit. Nuoc mia is a common roadside treat in Vietnam, and it’s frothy and only lightly sweet, with a pleasant vegetal undertone. Try it with an add-in of lime, durian or, best of all, kumquat. It’s a cooling treat to combat blazing (though less humid than Vietnam) Sacramento summers.

14. The Boiling Crab

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6910 65th St #100
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 394-9166
Visit Website

Boiling Crab was founded by Dada Ngo and Sinh Nguyen in Garden Grove, and now has 19 locations, including two in Sacramento. These types of restaurants tend to emphasize quantity over quality, and Boiling Crab is no exception. It’s more about gathering with friends and family to get messy and peel heavily seasoned crawdads than worrying about what’s fresh/seasonal/local, but fresh Dungeness and crawfish can be found when in season.

15. Tay Giang Restaurant

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7321 W Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823
(916) 688-8223
Visit Website

When you visit, pretty much every table will sport a massive, majestic deep-fried catfish, as part of the ca bong lau nuong dish (billed as “DIY wrap dishes, served with herbs, lettuce and vermicelli). It takes 30 minutes to prepare, and it is — without question — worth the wait, for the crispy, caramelized sheets of scallion-sprinkled skin alone. Snack on the skin while it’s hot, then make a rice paper-encased roll and dip it into the wonderfully funky anchovy sauce. The banh xeo (sizzling rice flour crepe flavored with turmeric) is also quite crisp, with no hint of the soggy middle that plagues so many others.

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1. Phở Saigon Restaurant

5304 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95820

Pho Saigon seemed to go downhill a bit when it changed owners a couple years back, and it’s fallen off the rotation for some. Still, if you like your pho aromatic and heavily spiced, this may be your jam. The pho dac biet (special) has a good mix of meat, although their rare steak is not really served rare but fully cooked in the broth. For tendon fans, they do something magical to their tendon that renders it to a delightful gummy texture, with no off “barnyard” flavor.

5304 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95820

2. Pho Xe Lua

5331 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95820

The sign outside of Pho Xe Lua sports a kitschy steam train drawing, and the dark brown pho broth brings a freight train of beefy flavor to your mouth. Get the oxtail pho to up the bovine quotient and have fun picking the chewy meat nuggets off the bone. The spicing of the broth is subtle, for those who prefer more cow and less star anise in their pho.

5331 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95820

3. Phở Bolsa Restaurant

5815 Stockton Blvd # A, Sacramento, CA 95824

It would be hard to determine which restaurant earns the title of “oldest continually operating Vietnamese restaurant in Sacramento,” but Pho Bolsa is certainly a contender. While they may have been the introduction to pho to many non-Viet Gen-Xers, these days they are mostly known for being one of the few places in Sac that serves cha ca la vong (a dish for two of grilled, turmeric-flavored catfish served with heaps of dill and scallion) and for their satisfying bun rieu. This noodle soup’s broth is flavored with tomato, and topped with succulent freshwater crab. It’s served with a plate of fine-chopped romaine lettuce; add the whole portion to lend a texturally contrasting crunch.

5815 Stockton Blvd # A
Sacramento, CA 95824

4. Pho 1920

6175 Stockton Blvd #270, Sacramento, CA 95824

Pho 1920 is the new kid in town and it’s shaking things up. The unusual name refers to the history of pho, which is elucidated in text on the menu as having both French and Chinese roots in late 19th/early 20th century northern Vietnam. The broth is less sweet and spiced than is typical, and proudly lacking in MSG. The chef’s special beef noodle soup (as it is called on the extremely short menu, in English and Chinese characters, with no mention of the word “pho”) comes with chewy brisket only and is topped with shoestringed raw red onion and chopped cilantro leaves and stems, with choice of customary thin pho noodles or flat, fresh noodles billed as “chow fun.” The lack of depth in the broth (perhaps due to the absence of MSG) is mitigated by a dollop of housemade, tangy chili sauce, which is also sold to take home at the counter.

6175 Stockton Blvd #270
Sacramento, CA 95824

5. Quán Nem Ninh Hòa Restaurant

6450 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95823

Eating at Quan Nem is best with two or more, because the roll-your-own spring rolls are interactive and meant to be a communal affair. The house special is what most order, and it comes with some of the tastiest nem nuong cuon (charbroiled ground pork skewers) around. Soak the rice paper in water until soft and fill with your choice of meat, herbs and vegetables, do chua (pickled daikon and carrot), vermicelli, and two tiny, precious nem chua (sour fermented pork sausage embedded with whole chilies and garlic cloves). The challenge is in trying to achieve the optimal combo of flavors in every bite while making a roll of manageable size and neatness. Pescatarians can order fish cakes with the special (rather than pork), and the banh beo (rice cake topped with dried shrimp) appetizers are a delicious starter.

6450 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823

6. Co Do

6665 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95823

Mi quang heo is a dish with a lot going on. There are soft, slippery textures (wide, flat turmeric noodles) and crispy crunch provided by peanuts and sesame rice crackers. The rich flavors of ground pork and shell-on shrimp are a contrast to fresh mint and raw, sliced banana blossom and cabbage. The small cup of hot pork broth served on the side is meant to be poured over, and binds it all into a dish that you’ll think about for days afterward. In addition to mi quang heo, fans of bun bo hue should get that too.

6665 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823

7. Phở King 2 Restaurant

6830 Stockton Blvd #180, Sacramento, CA 95823

Although the late, great, “cow pizzle” salad has been taken off the menu, the bo tai chanh (raw beef with lemon juice salad) is still being served and is still one of the best salads in the greater Sacramento area. This salad is mostly raw herbs (Thai basil, cilantro and rau ram) and sliced white onions, with the shreds of raw beef used more as a garnish than a main attraction. The raw onions are lightly pickled in the citrus dressing, which mellows them and removes the bite (and, thankfully, mitigates inevitable onion breath). This dish is a sublime mix of sweet, tart, salty and spicy, piled on the provided shrimp crackers. Pho King 2 is also known for its bun bo hue.

6830 Stockton Blvd #180
Sacramento, CA 95823

8. Pho Anh Dao

6830 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95823

There’s really no need for a menu at Pho Anh Dao: Just get the pho ga (chicken pho) – either with white meat, dark or a combo. There is sometimes a wait for seating in the mornings, and occasionally the chicken pho runs out and they close early. The lovely, clear broth, swimming with scallion and woody cilantro, can be further brightened with a squeeze of lime, but no other flavoring is warranted. It is perfect, and perfectly nourishing. Cash only.

6830 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823

9. Giò Chả Đức Hương Sandwiches

6825 Stockton Blvd #200, Sacramento, CA 95823

This banh mi cafe has mastered all things pork. The banh mi thit nuong (grilled pork) has got a smoky char to it and they sell house made pork liver pate in tubs from the deli case, along with tubs of golden butter. Go next level and order a banh mi with just pork, butter and veggies for a strong liver hit. Duc Huong is notable for having a regular foot-long size and also cute-as-a-button teeny sandwiches for only $2.25, and also for making a highly decent banh mi chay (veggie sandwich) with sautéed shiitake mushrooms and tofu skin.

6825 Stockton Blvd #200
Sacramento, CA 95823

10. Bánh Cuốn Tây Hồ Restaurant

6840 65th St #125, Sacramento, CA 95828

This is the undisputed spot in Sac for silky, hand-rolled rice noodle sheets. The dac biet gives you a sampling of three different varieties (shrimp paste, pork-and-wood ear mushroom, plain), which you can dunk in or douse with nuoc mam (sweetened, tangy fish sauce). It also boasts banh tom khoai chien (shredded sweet potato and shrimp fritters), cake-y mung bean fritters, and an uber-tasty, sour nugget of fermented pork sausage studded with whole peppercorns.

6840 65th St #125
Sacramento, CA 95828

11. Cơm Tấm Thiên Hương

6835 Stockton Blvd #430, Sacramento, CA 95823

Com tam (broken rice) is so much more than just a serving of cheap rice that was broken in the milling process. It is traditionally served with an array of side dishes, and at Com Tam Thien Huong you should go for the dac biet that comes with all of them, because they are all exceptional. You should not have to choose between the egg cake shot through with jelly noodles, the shrimp cake encased in crispy-fried tofu skin, the toasty pork skin shreds, the lemongrass-laced pork skewers, or the shrimp meatball grilled on sugar cane—get them all. They also serve an elegant version of the Chinese- inspired dish Hainan chicken rice (uncommon in this area) and the best soda xi muoi (sparkling salty plum drink) going.

6835 Stockton Blvd #430
Sacramento, CA 95823

12. Huong Lan Sandwiches

6930 65th St # 1401, Sacramento, CA 95823

Lengthy lines for banh mi, catered to with brisk efficiency, are the norm at lunch time at Huong Lan. The secret is to grab a table, order from a server, and eat your sandwich at leisure. The ultra-sweet, lusciously fatty grilled pork at Huong Lan is unique to them and either loved or loathed for the marbled fattiness, but the quality of the bread and distribution of toppings for the banh mi can be uneven.  Grab a banh mi at Duc Huong or Long Sandwich and order banh hoi thit nuong (grilled pork over rice noodles) at Huong Lan. It’s the same pork that goes in the sandwiches, on noodles with salad, herbs and fish sauce dressing.

6930 65th St # 1401
Sacramento, CA 95823

13. Sixteen Degrees Fahrenheit

6905 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95823

This is one of those liquid nitrogen-cooled rolled ice cream spots, but it also serves fresh-squeezed nuoc mia (sugar cane juice), either plain for jazzed up with fruit. Nuoc mia is a common roadside treat in Vietnam, and it’s frothy and only lightly sweet, with a pleasant vegetal undertone. Try it with an add-in of lime, durian or, best of all, kumquat. It’s a cooling treat to combat blazing (though less humid than Vietnam) Sacramento summers.

6905 Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823

14. The Boiling Crab

6910 65th St #100, Sacramento, CA 95823

Boiling Crab was founded by Dada Ngo and Sinh Nguyen in Garden Grove, and now has 19 locations, including two in Sacramento. These types of restaurants tend to emphasize quantity over quality, and Boiling Crab is no exception. It’s more about gathering with friends and family to get messy and peel heavily seasoned crawdads than worrying about what’s fresh/seasonal/local, but fresh Dungeness and crawfish can be found when in season.

6910 65th St #100
Sacramento, CA 95823

15. Tay Giang Restaurant

7321 W Stockton Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95823

When you visit, pretty much every table will sport a massive, majestic deep-fried catfish, as part of the ca bong lau nuong dish (billed as “DIY wrap dishes, served with herbs, lettuce and vermicelli). It takes 30 minutes to prepare, and it is — without question — worth the wait, for the crispy, caramelized sheets of scallion-sprinkled skin alone. Snack on the skin while it’s hot, then make a rice paper-encased roll and dip it into the wonderfully funky anchovy sauce. The banh xeo (sizzling rice flour crepe flavored with turmeric) is also quite crisp, with no hint of the soggy middle that plagues so many others.

7321 W Stockton Blvd
Sacramento, CA 95823

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