Tucked away on Lagrange Avenue, Saigon Café sits at number 6A, right next to Tokyo Express. Although a small restaurant seating only around nineteen people, it presents an attractive alternative for those looking to venture outside Vassar’s off-campus dining mainstays options such as Twisted Soul, Thai Spice and Babycakes.
On a weeknight night, at around 7 p.m., my friend and I arrived with a craving for some delicious Vietnamese cuisine. For those unfamiliar with the cuisine, Vietnamese dishes are somewhat similar to those of other Southeast Asian cuisines like Thai and Cambodian and feature fresh, flavorful ingredients. With little oil used, they are generally regarded as a very healthy option.
Upon arrival we noticed that we were the only customers present and were seated right away. Despite stunning photographs of Vietnamese vistas and urban settings and markets, the restaurant itself does not offer great ambiance. Yet, the service was prompt and attentive to our needs.
The menu was fairly large with quite a few vegetarian dishes. Options ranged from coffees and desserts to sandwiches and entrees. In terms of cost, main dishes started from $6.90 for a hoagie and ended at around $9.95 for a seafood dish. Overall, the dishes were reasonably priced compared to other dining options in the area.
It took a while decide on what we were going to order, we eventually decided on the Hanoi Soup and the Lime Chicken. We also added the fried spring rolls to share to begin our meal and decided to skip dessert, although the Caramel Flan did look promising. I also elected to add an iced coffee, or Café Sua Da.
Although the portion was small, the traditional drink prepared with strong coffee and condensed milk was the perfect pick-me-up after a long day of classes, but was not the best choice when considering the weather.
After ordering our meal, the spring rolls arrived promptly. With a crispy outer shell and a satisfying mix of vegetables, chicken and noodles, they were a great beginning to the meal. A sauce was also provided for dipping, although I preferred the rolls without it.
Finally, our main dishes arrived. The Hanoi Soup was a beef broth based soup with slices of beef and Vermicelli noodles. Like most Pho, the broth had an extremely pleasant light flavor with hints of mint, lime and basil. It was a good choice to throw off the beginning of winter chills. The portion was also quite large and I had a hard time finishing the bowl. I was told by my friend that the Lime Chicken was also quite good.
Indeed, in hindsight, after eyeing my friend’s choice, I regret not being more adventurous in my dish selection.
Overall, it was nice change of pace from the types of food that normally dominate Vassar students’ meals off campus and was an affordable alternative to on campus dining options.
Saigon Café is open Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturdays noon to 10 pm and Sundays from 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
To get there from Vassar College, walk on Raymond Avenue toward Main Street and turn right on Lagrange Avenue. Walk for about two minutes and the restaurant will be on your right. The restaurant also offers a take-out option for those who prefer to enjoy their food on campus.