While it’s only a few blocks long, the Tenderloin’s Little Saigon area is jam-packed with Vietnamese culture. As the heart of the immigrant community from the small but significant Southeast Asian nation, this area has the taste of the region, with reasonably priced delights for a variety of appetites.
Saigon Sandwich Shop
It’s not a Vietnamese enclave without some world-class Banh Mi, and visitors to the Tenderloin will find no shortage of options. For our money, the best Vietnamese sandwiches can be found at the Saigon Sandwich Shop, and judging by the lunchtime lines out the door, we’re not the only ones. For around $4, their overstuffed offerings are an unbeatable deal, with a flavor that keeps their loyal customers patiently waiting, lunch hour after lunch hour.
Kien Thanh Coffee Shop
If you’re looking for some authentic old-country beverages, look no further than this mom-and-pop operation on Eddy Street. Their Vietnamese Tea and Coffee brings the flavors of Saigon to San Francisco at prices that’ll agree with any budget. Finger foods are priced to move here as well, but without lacking quality or that homemade care. Whether you’re new to the neighborhood or a lifelong resident, the friendly service here means you’ll always feel at home.
This contemporary restaurant’s wide-ranging menu and healthy fare make it a great option for visitors looking for more than a quick bite. While their noodle bowls there a main attraction, the entire menu from pho to the braised pork brings authentic Vietnamese flavor in abundance. Unpretentious but high in quality, Tin is worth the walk over to the other side of Mission Street. Be warned, dinner hours begin at 5:30 and seats fill up fast, so you’ll want to get there early.
Pho Tan Hoa
If you’re like a lot of people searching for great Vietnamese eats, pho is number one on your list. Little Saigon’s finest just may be found at Pho Tan Hoa on Jones Street, where a large bowl will get you way more meat than most joints at a wallet-friendly price. If you’re new to the area, you’re more than likely to end up a regular after your first visit thanks to their great service and unbeatable broth. Grab some cash before you arrive, because they don’t take credit cards. With pho this good, they don’t have to.
Hai Ky Noodles
Hold onto that cash, because you’ll need it at the Tenderloin’s favorite noodle shop as well. Whether served in your soup or dry on the side, Hai Ky’s specialty is one of the true highlights of Ellis Street’s edible offerings. The variety is another great feature, as their Chinese/Vietnamese hybrid menu serves up favorites of both nations well enough to keep foodies of all stripes coming back for more.
Heart of the City Farmer’s Market
Feeling inspired to try your hand at these Vietnamese favorites? You’ll find the ingredients you need at San Fran’s only nonprofit farmer’s market down on United Nations Plaza at the southern end of the neighborhood. The freshest produce, meats and seafood you can find in the area can serve as the raw materials for your own take on banh mi, pho, and an almost infinite number of concoctions. Don’t worry-if you feel like leaving it to the experts after you’ve tried your hand, there are plenty of options right here in the Tenderloin.