A taste of Little Saigon

Visit Orange County for great Vietnamese food, shopping
David Lansing

Great news for food lovers: The formerly intimidating language and cultural barriers in Westminster's Little Saigon have come down, and visitors can now flock to this Orange County neighborhood and enjoy some of the best Vietnamese food in the country. The city's Vietnamese community, the largest in the nation, has opened its arms wide ― most of the restaurants now feature English menus and a bilingual staff, and Asian markets label exotic produce and fresh seafood in several languages. On weekends, cars looking for parking often jam Bolsa Avenue, the neighborhood's main drag: to avoid the congestion, head for one of the huge parking lots behind the Asian Garden Mall or A Dong Supermarket (both in the center of Little Saigon) and base your day from there.

A Dong Supermarket.
WHAT:
Tanks of fish, boxes of sweet tamarinds, and 40-plus types of noodles in a bustling Asian market. WHEN: 8 a.m.-11 p.m. daily. WHERE: 9221 Bolsa Ave.; 714/657-7456.

Asian Garden Mall.
WHAT:
More than 200 stores, including about 150 jewelry shops (vendors expect you to bargain for the best price, so don't be shy). WHEN: Open daily. WHERE: 9200 Bolsa Ave.; 714/842-8018.

Lee's Sandwiches.
WHAT:
The Asian sandwich on the menu features grilled pork or chicken on a freshly baked baguette. WHEN: 5 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. HOW MUCH: $. WHERE: 9261 Bolsa Ave.; 714/901-5788.

Pho Thang Long.
WHAT:
Tender slices of beef, chewy brisket, and flavorful shank meat in their special combination pho, a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. WHEN: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. HOW MUCH: $. WHERE: 15579 Brookhurst St.; 714/839-4955.

Brodard Restaurant.
WHAT:
Heavenly spring rolls, chewy duck salad, and wok-fried clear noodles with crab, jumbo shrimp, and scallions in one of Little Saigon's best restaurants. WHEN: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner Wed-Sun. HOW MUCH: $$. WHERE: 9892 Westminster Ave., Ste. R (inside Fortune Mall); 714/530-1744.

INFO: Little Saigon's heart is Bolsa Ave. between Magnolia Ave. and Brookhurst St., about 4 miles east of I-405. For more information, call 714/898-9648.