Tra House's 'Twisted Vietnamese' Food Is Worth the Nightmare of Its Parking Lot

Photo by LP Hastings
Let us take photos of food!

When I say the parking lot in front of Tra House is a mess, I don't mean that figuratively. Most of the painted lines that separate one space from the next are either faded or nonexistent, and if you manage to find an empty spot in the anarchic chaos that ensues every Saturday night, your car won't likely fit unless it's a golf cart. After you leave your vehicle, hoping it'll survive the night un-dinged, you tiptoe around a postapocalyptic landscape of cigarette butts, errant bits of trash and bald spots of dirt, then pass an open garbage container whose stench makes you instinctively cover your nose and mouth. But as with anything in Little Saigon, you can't judge the restaurant by the parking lot, especially this one. The Boiling Crab empire was born right here, and its original location still packs 'em in a few doors down from Tra House. But these days, Tra House is the main draw--and it's an oasis of cool and a sanctuary from the hellishness you just trudged through.

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97. Bò Kho at Song Long Restaurant

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Photo by The Mexican
Edible hug redux

Behold the beginning of our annual 100 Favorite Dishes countdown! Every day until the publication of our fantabulous Best Of Issue, we'll list our favorite meals this year in descending order. Enjoy, pass it on, and tune in daily!

Have I ever told ustedes how much I love bò kho, and how much I think it's an unappreciated Vietnamese soup? Of course I have--every time I mention the damn meal, I point that out. Just like I did a couple of weeks ago, when I reviewed Song Long Restaurant in Little Saigon for Eat This Now, and just like I'm doing right now.

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Lee's Sandwiches Recalls a Bunch of Meat Because It Wasn't Inspected Correctly

Categories: Viet Vittles

Photo by Evan G
RIP, this Lee's Sandwiches location that should be familiar with a bunch of you

How much faith do you have in your stomach? I hope it's a lot, because Lee's Sandwiches is recalling over 200,000 pounds of meat because it wasn't inspected correctly by the USDA.

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New 'Phocumentary' Will Explore Origins of Pho and Vietnamese Culture

Categories: Viet Vittles

Freeman Lafleur and Curtis Bell

Pho enthusiasts: there's a new pho documentary in the works--a "phocumentary," if you will--and in it creators Freeman Lafleur and Curtis Bell will use pho as a means to explore Vietnamese culture and cuisine. The phocumentary will attempt to trace the origins of pho and highlight the resilience of the Vietnamese people, in which some started pho businesses to create a new life after escaping their homeland during the Vietnam War. Of course, Orange County's Little Saigon is featured, as well as other areas in California with large Vietnamese populations. Lafleur and Bell are currently hosting a Kickstarter to raise more funds for their film and, curious about where they're planning to take the project, we sat down with them to learn more.

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OC Register Explains to Readers What Pho Is--Um, What?!

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Photo by Das Ubergeek
Pho: a soup. Soup: a type of meal. Meal: What humans eat. Eat: Eat

The best way to gauge the readership of a particular publication is by seeing not only what kind of stories they publish, but examining the caliber and lingo of said stories. For instance, this infernal rag sometimes refers to hamburgers as "steamed hams," because we know most of ustedes are Simpsons geeks who'll howl at that joke. We'll also use ustedes a lot because we've taught core readers to know that ustedes means "y'all" and expect everyone else to have heard the word around.

When it comes to food, we'll explain new dishes that aren't yet part of our daily meals--sphihas, for instance, or pambazos. We sure as hell wouldn't explain what pho is, as you'd have to be a moron to live in OC and not yet encounter that most iconic of Vietnamese soups.

On the other hand, consider the Orange County Register.

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Eat This Now: Bò Kho at Song Long Restaurant

Photo by The Mexican
An edible hug

Sometimes, when you're young and find yourself in Little Saigon, you don't want to go to a crawfish joint, a shaved ice spot, to Afters or any of the other hotspots second-generation Viets opened in the past five years. Sometimes, you just want to hang with the elders and do it old-school. Sometimes, you just want a bowl of bò kho at Song Long Restaurant.

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Presenting the Queen of Little Saigon, Sophie Bao Tran

Photo by John Gilhooley
Always ready for Little Saigon's closeup

In Orange County's Little Saigon community, there's a real worry that Vietnamese language and culture are getting lost in the American melting pot. Younger generation Vietnamese Americans use English in their daily lives, often because it's the only language they know. The situation, not surprisingly, alarms some parents who've decided to speak only Vietnamese to their toddlers.

Sophie Bao Tran, who was born in the U.S. to war-refugee parents and attended the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana, shares those concerns. "My Vietnamese isn't perfect," Tran says. "When I speak it around my mom and dad, they correct my mistakes. They are very loving and encouraging, and I want to pass that on."

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There's a Restaurant in Kentucky that Sells a $38 Bowl of Pho

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Photo by Das Ubergeek
Not the $38 pho bowl in question, but rather a bowl from Pho 86

Last week, the chica and I were in Kentucky for...something. We spent most of our time in Louisville, a charming-as-hell city with a vibrant, rising dining scene. It's also the home to two iconic hotels, the Seelbach (where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a bunch of The Great Gatsby), and the Brown Hotel, home to that edible pillow known as the Hot Brown Sandwich.

Both hotels have fabulous, iconic bars (and the Seelbach is the birthplace of its namesake bourbon-and-champagne cocktail), although we found ourselves more at the Brown due to its superior bourbon selection. And in one of my drunken stupors, I made my way to its English Grill, its high-dining restaurant. I was expecting to find refined takes on Bluegrass State classic meals like burgoo or Benedictine; instead I found a bowl of pho. For $38.


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Mứt Tết What? A Guide to the Vietnamese Lunar New Year Candy Tray

Categories: Viet Vittles

A little bit of everything!

Originally published Jan. 30, 2014.

During the Vietnamese New Year, celebrators place trays full of candies colored red, orange, and white out in their homes. This tray is the mứt tết, and without it, there's basically no new year. But despite its ubiquity, the mứt tết can look a little confusing between the dustry swirls, wrapped Gusher look-alikes, and miniature dried fruits.

Don't want to look confused the next time you're in a Vietnamese house? We've got you covered, from the candied coconut to the sugar-glazed peanuts.

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Eat This Now: $4.99 Pho at Pho Bac Ky

Edwin Goei
Take me to Slurpy Town!

Pho Bac Ky's $4.99 bowl of pho is probably not the cheapest meal you could have in Tustin, but it sure seems like it. The stenciled sign on the window that says "$4.99 + tax for Pho (Rare Steak or Brisket) or Rice with BBQ Chicken" has been there forever. A few years ago, the going rate was actually a dollar less. But even at $4.99, it's such a bargain that you'd have to troll the back alleys of Little Saigon to find a better one. And it's not some sort of Happy Hour deal, either. The price is offered for dinner on weekdays (3 p.m.-9 p.m.) and all day on the weekends, which is when you want to eat it anyway.

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