Pho at the Saigon Cafe [TGLRC #1]

Saigon Cafe Livermore

Saigon Café in Livermore, CA

Saigon Café
2011 2nd St (map)
Livermore, CA, 94550
(925) 371-8235
Saigon Cafe on Urbanspoon

It’s January 3rd, a cold Friday evening, as my fiancé Andrea and I head to our dance lessons at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in downtown Livermore

Yes, my pair of left feet are in great need of training for one simple reason; to save my bride-to-be’s toes for our upcoming wedding.

With an hour to kill, we figured we’d park at the studio and stroll along till we found something to eat. The reality — we were friggin’ cold and hungry, so we just scurried into the first restaurant we saw.

Hello Saigon Café, you are lucky #1 of The Great Livermore Restaurant Challenge!

As we entered the Vietnamese restaurant, we were quickly seated by the friendly staff. It’s a nondescript place with about 17 tables and a legal capacity of 44. It took a bit for them to take our order; by the time we realized it the waitress was at our table, pen in hand.

Saigon Cafe LivermoreOur drinks and pot stickers arrived quickly. Andrea had a Pepsi ($1.95), and I went for the 33 Export ($3.75), a Vietnamese beer. I almost always go for the national beer of any restaurant I’m at. I never had the 33 Export before, and frankly, I don’t plan on getting it again. Next time I’ll go for the Tsingtao or Sierra Nevada instead.

The pot stickers ($6.50) had a mild favor but were pretty good; especially with the dipping sauce. The highlight of the meal was our main course. Andrea had the Gà Xào Rau Cải ($9.50), a chicken with mixed Vegetable rice entrée which was bursting off her plate. I ordered the regular Phở Bò Viên ($7.50), a huge bowl of beef noodle soup that was really nice and hot. I’m afraid to see how big a large is.

Saigon Cafe LivermoreThe Phở had a really nice refreshing aroma, mouth-watering taste, and best of all – fresh vegetables. While the meat balls were good, the texture was a tad on the rubbery side. So next time I’ll go for the Phở Tái, with rare steak slices instead.

As class approached, we were pretty full and had enough to take home. But with a few hours of dancing ahead of us, we skipped the doggie bag. Our bill came to $31.83 which seemed reasonable, especially with the large portions. We paid the bill, left a tip, were thanked out the door, and rolled on down the block to burn off those calories. It was time to dance!

Our meals were great and the staff is friendly. With the huge helpings of good food and fresh vegetables, our tasty meal really hit the spot; especially with the cold weather. The 4-star rating on Yelp seems right on the mark as I’d give the same rating — docking a star as the place could use a good early spring cleaning. The floor, baseboards and appliances were on the dingy side. The men’s bathroom also had a pungent stale sewerish smell along with a very loose toilet seat barely held by one bolt that almost fell to the floor when I lifted it.

Will we go back? The next time we’re up for Vietnamese food, definitely. But it’ll be a while since I’m just at the beginning of this crazy challenge with at least 200 restaurants to go.

Stay tuned next week as I hit the restaurant #2 for The Great Livermore Restaurant Challenge! Any suggestions?

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