Budget-Wise Bites: Allentown, Part II

The next stop on our culinary journey through Allentown’s ethnic eateries takes diners to the edge of Jordan Park, where Little Saigon Restaurant has been serving Vietnamese and Chinese food since 2003. Although simple and modest—not to mention squeaky clean—the atmosphere is comfortable and homey. Reasonable prices (entrees range from $7 to $11.45), quick service and tasty food add up to some powerful Asian persuasion. At lunchtime, five-year-old Sally, daughter of owners chef Thao Do and manager Dung Ma, is a friendly, pint-size hostess. (The couple’s elder daughter, Lisa, helps out after school. “Everybody works,” says Ma.)

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While pho—Vietnamese beef noodle soup delivered with a plate of fresh Thai basil, bean sprouts and a thick wedge of lime—is a signature dish, I’m always compelled to order the fragrant and zesty hot & sour soup, the best version I’ve tasted in the Valley. And, if you order the “deluxe” pho (#21), be prepared to encounter bovine bits and pieces seldom ingested by most Americans.

While Chinese selections include such familiar dishes as Kung Pao Shrimp and Sweet & Sour Pork, choices are more limited—and much more interesting—than a standard Chinese restaurant menu, with dishes Duck Sautéed with Lemongrass & Hot Pepper and Crispy Fish Filet with Special Sauce vying for attention. (Although a special ornament indicates “Hot & Spicy” dishes, their piquancy scale is apparently calibrated to woefully timid palates, so don’t be put off by this designation.) With only two official vegetarian entrees appearing on the menu, those who eschew food-with-a-face don’t get the pleasure of variety.

The menu’s lengthy beverage list includes everything from a pot of hot jasmine tea to a jackfruit milk shake, but bringing a six-pack of Tsingtao is recommended for dinner. Just plan on an early evening: This family-oriented restaurant closes promptly at 8PM.

Little Saigon Restaurant, 1033 N. 6th Street (corner of 6th and Sumner Avenue); 610.821.5350. Closed Tuesday. Visa and MasterCard accepted.

Lenora Dannelke, a food and travel writer who lives in Old Allentown, loves the abundance of ethnic grocers and restaurants in her neighborhood. She’s still waiting, however, for Ethiopian and Korean restaurants to come to town.

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