The Vietnamese community has thrived in America, and with it Little Saigon has expanded as far as the 22 Freeway to the north, the 405 Freeway to the south, Beach Boulevard on the west, and Harbor Boulevard on the east. Yet little 3-mile Bolsa Avenue, the birthplace of our neighborhood, remains its heart, soul—and, of course, stomach!
If you come to visit Little Saigon, you will be surrounded everywhere along this avenue by the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of Vietnam—and the lively culture of the Vietnamese. You’ll see long lines of laughing, talking shoppers snaking out the doors of fresh food markets. Twenty-five- and fifty-pound bags of jasmine rice line the front doorways, while cell phones and lottery tickets are sold next to them in designated booths. Vietnamese pop music blares throughout the stores. Just a few feet farther down the street, you can join the throng at a pho house, where you may find yourself sharing a table with complete strangers. Soup and an appropriate salad platter will be brought to you within minutes of ordering. At these and most Little Saigon restaurants, you’ll eat with plasticware; napkins are distributed from a dispenser, and the furnishings and cookware are old and well worn. Things can seem cluttered. All of this may strike visitors as a bit lowbrow, but there is undeniable charm and character here as well.