Vietnamese Food is Hip Now (And I Hate That)

Banh_mi_stu_spivack.jpg
Photo by Stuart Spivack
Literally everywhere

I grew up in San Jose, so from day one I was surrounded by banh mi, pho (and the superior Vietnamese soups), and com tam. Heritage aside, Vietnamese food was as big of a culinary influence growing up as burgers or pizza (I remember the first time I had hash browns, but the first time I had banh xeo? No idea.)

What'd I have in my sandwiches? Cha lua. How do have my eggs in the morning? Sunny side up with some baguette. What went into my fried rice? Lap xuong (okay, and hotdogs).

But the last time I visited home, I noticed something different. The crowds of Vietnamese (and Mexican) families I had grown accustomed to had started to disappear, replaced by a younger, hipper (by San Jose standards, anyways) clientele. My last trip to the best com tam place in San Jose was a sad tale of a 2-hour wait.

Vietnamese food had become hip.

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Photo by paranoidnotandroid
Chill guys, it's just soup.

I probably should have noticed earlier.

Like when Hipster Ipsum, the new cool way to create fill text debuted. Playing around with it, I noticed the random words held my beloved "banh mi," shoving it right next to "polaroid," "umami," "Portland," "selvedge," and "Stumptown."

"Maybe the developer just likes cheap sandwiches," I thought to myself, handwaving away any concerns.

But things kept popping up. Every few weeks, a picture of a bowl of pho or some banh mi would hit the front page of Reddit. New Vietnamese restaurants with pastel walls and giant windows (like Sushilicious' when it was still open) started showing up around town, replacing dozens of unrelated, badly decorated "Pho So 1"s. It began to get harder and harder to find Vietnamese restaurants without English words in their names (I used to avoid those places like the plague but have since given up.)

Next thing I knew, people were buying $5 banh mi, and I was sitting next to full-on hippies at Pho 54.

Some people might wonder why even be mad. Am I being a crotchety old man? Feeling the squeeze of cultural gentrification? Between a second generation of Vietnamese opening restaurants and the simple fact that Vietnamese food is just so good, this was bound to happen eventually, but I'm not mad seeing my mother cuisine become the next Thai food.

No, I'm just kind of bummed out.

Everyone getting into Vietnamese food now is going to miss out on the little things that make it great -- wiping down your own utensils, $2 sandwiches, those weird tiny jars of pickles. They'll get the big picture, sure, but none of the nuances. And when the day "Viet Spice" dots the county like Thai Spice does now, well, you might as well just order a pizza.

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44 comments
Katie Leavelle
Katie Leavelle

"people have discovered a type of delicious food that i also like, and now i am upset because the businesses are doing so well that i can't just pop in and eat without a wait." what a selfish prick.

Isaac Contreras
Isaac Contreras

this title of the article remind me of you Patrick Nguyen... amiright, Kofi?

Jamie Cakes
Jamie Cakes

OMG if this is the same kinda sandwich I got from Lees's Sandwiches....best thing Ever!!!

Phoebe Le David
Phoebe Le David

Jessica Johnson i definitely think its hard to find authentic viet food now. Lucky me, my mom cooks authentic viet food! :)

Craig Grossman
Craig Grossman

You know you love that hot, sumptuous bowl of pho! Hahaha

Dave Nguyen
Dave Nguyen

Sorry Craig Grossman, Mexican food is better. Anything made from Lee's Sandwiches is not good.

Todd Clarke
Todd Clarke

When in LA the best bon mi I have had is on MandolineGrill food truck. The baguette is beautiful.

Nick Riviera
Nick Riviera

It's only hip in garden grove, get over yourself.

Wendy Song
Wendy Song

Thomas Vu Linh Vu Farah Huynh Be Bu

Charles Lam
Charles Lam

Tl;dr: Everything sucks. First EP was better. I knew about them before they were cool. (Narwhal bacons etc etc)

Gabriel Torres
Gabriel Torres

As long as my hole in the wall pho place still good, IDGAF

Martial Art
Martial Art

If you are complaining about trendy viet food, than why are you going to that spot to eat!? There are a billion different restaurants in Bolsa and plenty mom and pops to choose from wherever you're at. If ur yelping places to eat viet food... U already lost.

jaliza
jaliza

Everyone knows that hipsters have moved on to Ramen and Korean food, so get over yourself. Also, experiencing different cultures and chowing down on authentic foods of many nations is entirely apart of the American experience.


It's not your favorite band selling out, it's a cuisine.

Paul Abbaszadeh
Paul Abbaszadeh

Dafuq?! Forks? We don't use forks...chopsticks and spoons, pendejo

Andy Au
Andy Au

Very unprofessional I still see some menus without a translation of English. But instead show the picture of the dish to point to the waiter or waitress this is what I want to order.

Greyzie Bo
Greyzie Bo

Ive lived in america and ive never had a cheese burger.. me no likey

Sean Soto
Sean Soto

Paul you wipe your fork but you can't remember to wipe your ass... That is offensive to the Little Saigon business owners.

breeb714
breeb714

I enjoy pho and spring rolls once a week.. In all my 30 years as a white person I have never had Vietnamese food.. I appreciate the acceptance of it now(BTW mama hongs in costa mesa = the best)



Paul Abbaszadeh
Paul Abbaszadeh

Hahah I still wipe down my utensils when I dine in little Saigon

tbplayer1
tbplayer1

If it helps, what you enjoyed probably isn't as good as the food back in Vietnam.  The food here is kinda the same, but it's missing that special something.  (That's the way it works for all other world cuisine.)  LOL

Shawn Thackrah
Shawn Thackrah

lived near garden grove for 14 years never tried it once... me no likey

Paul Abbaszadeh
Paul Abbaszadeh

It was better back when whitey was afraid of our food because they thought it was all composed of dog

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

This sounds a lot like supporting the hell out of your favorite local band in hopes they become successful and then calling them a "sellout" when they actually do.

tbplayer1
tbplayer1

What you probably mean is you don't want to try it because you're afraid you won't like it. 

CharlesLam
CharlesLam

@FishWithoutBicycle  Yeah, I objectively thought of that as I was writing, but the heart feels what it feels, y'know?

This article's snarky tl;dr: Everything sucks now. The first EP was better. I liked them before they were cool.

FishWithoutBicycle
FishWithoutBicycle

@CharlesLam @FishWithoutBicycle 

The heart wants what it wants. I understand that very well. Of course, it's a little easier when we accept that the things we love don't just belong to us...they belong to the world...to the cosmos, even. :-)

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