Tasty Vietnamese cuisine hidden in Odana Road strip mall

Saigon Noodles
Saigon Noodles

I’m going to preface this review with the fact that I will always be a meat and potatoes girl over a soup and noodle girl. I have definitely enjoyed Korean, Japanese and Chinese food, and my experience at Saigon Noodles was great, but it would never be my first choice over a good brew pub or a great cafe. With that being said, I really did enjoy my lunch.

Saigon Noodles Thai tea
Saigon Noodles Thai tea

Saigon Noodles is at the end of a rundown strip mall on Odana Road, but the inside is surprisingly nice. It is bright with muted colors and a lot of tables. We had to wait a little bit, but they turned tables over really fast and our food came out even faster. I have only been to one other Vietnamese restaurant and I got Thai tea. I loved the unique earthy flavor and sweetness, so I decided to try it at Saigon. Their version was just as orange as I remember, but the sweetness was more muted, which I preferred. I’m not sure why it is called Thai tea at a Vietnamese restaurant, but it is a great little orange concoction that I definitely suggest trying!

Saigon Noodles spring rolls
Saigon Noodles spring rolls

For starters we tried their spring rolls and their egg rolls. After we ordered those we were ordering a bowl of Pho to split and asked that it not come with cilantro on top, and the waitress very kindly told us the spring rolls come with cilantro in them and offered to put in a new order to be made without cilantro. That was extremely thoughtful of her because we really don’t like cilantro.

Saigon Noodles egg rolls
Saigon Noodles egg rolls

The spring rolls were what you would expect. They were made with the sticky clear wrap, carrots, cabbage and had pieces of beef and shrimp in it. I’m not the biggest fan of spring rolls, but figured I would give them a chance. They were nice and fresh, and the beef had a good flavor. It came with a thick spicy peanut sauce that neither of us were too keen on. I don’t love peanut sauces in general. I usually prefer more savory sauces for my spring rolls. The house sauce that was in a squeeze bottle on our table was much better than the peanut sauce. It was salty, savory and thick enough for dipping. The egg rolls were much better than the spring rolls. They had a good crunch and the mixture inside was perfectly steamed and seasoned. The egg rolls also come with a decent side of pickled veggies on the side. The carrots, cucumbers, white carrots and cabbage all had a light pickle and still had a good crunch. Out of the two, I would choose the egg rolls over the spring rolls, and both were great with the house sauce.

Saigon Noodles Pho
Saigon Noodles Pho

My mom and I ordered a small bowl of Pho and split it. I’m super glad we went with the smaller bowl because it was huge, definitely enough for two. We got the regular bowl with beef tenderloin, and the beef was perfectly tender and there was a lot of it. An order of Pho comes with a plate of add-ins including crunchy bean sprouts, jalapenos, onions, limes and we opted out of the cilantro. We threw the bean sprouts, jalapenos and onions right in and squirted both limes all over. The bean sprouts and onions added a great crunch and freshness to the heavy broth. The jalapenos added a good spice, but you definitely have to be careful to not get two slices in one bite! The limes added a great acidity in the beginning but the juice was overpowered by the broth after a little bit. There were a ton of perfectly cooked noodles, and the broth was heavy and flavorful, but not too salty. Overall we were very happy with our large bowl of Pho.

FOOD NOTES: Vietnamese food is not my go-to choice for dining out, but if that’s the type of food I want or I want to take someone out for Vietnamese food Saigon Noodles would be a good choice on the west side. I preferred the┬áVietnamese dishes I got at Ha Long Bay on Willy Street, they seemed more flavorful and maybe a bit more authentic. The spring rolls were nothing new, but the egg rolls were better than expected. The Pho had a great flavor and the add-ins complimented the heavy broth. The service was good, and the dining room was nicer than expected. If you’re looking for quality Vietnamese food on the west side Saigon Noodles won’t disappoint.

Authentic Mexican food can be found on S Park St

I’ve posted about my quest for authentic Mexican food before, and I had almost lost hope until I had my first meal at Taqueria Guadalajara. The Mexican restaurant is a block down from the new Barriques at Park and Fish Hatch. Be careful not to drive past because it looks like a house and is between two other small buildings. You walk in to a front bar area that seats about a half dozen, then there’s the open kitchen and in the back is a dining room that probably seats about 20.

Taqueria Guadalajara chips and salsa
Taqueria Guadalajara chips and salsa

Our waitress promptly brought over some chips and two little bowls of salsa. As I’m assuming everyone already knows, I hate cilantro and they use a lot of cilantro at Taqueria Guadalajara. So if you love cilantro you’ll love both of their salsas. The red salsa had chunks of tomato, a lot of cilantro and no too much spice. The green one was extra spicy, also had a lot of cilantro and is pureed. Clearly I didn’t like either of the salsas but most people probably would.

Their menu has well-known options like tacos, chimichangas, enchiladas and burritos, but it also has some interesting options like lengua (tongue), huaraches, menudo (only on Saturday and Sunday) and chile rellenos. I wasn’t sure how I’d like some of the more authentic options so I opted for a lengua taco and chicken enchiladas.

Taqueria Guadalajara lengua taco
Taqueria Guadalajara lengua taco

The lengua taco comes in a freshly-made corn taco with onions and cilantro…our waitress was more than happy to exclude the cilantro. My friend doesn’t like avocado so I put her avocado on my taco when it came to the table. The corn tortilla was hot and fresh. The lengua was super tender and had a perfectly seasoned flavor. It came with a small chunk of lime, which adds a great tang to the taco. The raw onions added a great flavor and crunch. I wish the taco normally came with avocado on it, but it would be worth it to add it on. I loved my tongue taco, and went back a couple weeks later for more tongue! On my second visit I got a lengua huarache, which is a flat corn tortilla covered in beans, choice of meat, green salsa, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado and sour cream. The lengua on my second trip was just as good, but the extras on top really added some great flavor and made the meal better.

Taqueria guadalajara enchiladas, rice, beans
Taqueria guadalajara enchiladas, rice, beans

For my main meal on my first visit I got chicken enchiladas. They were very tasty but nowhere near as special as the lengua taco. The shredded chicken was cooked well and was plentiful. The enchilada sauce was supposed to be a green sauce, but usually green sauce is made with cilantro so I subbed that out for red sauce, which was standard red enchilada sauce. The enchiladas come with rice and beans, which are usually throw-away sides in tex-mex restaurants, but these were great. The rice was plump and had a good flavor. The refried beans were perfectly creamy but still had lumps, and actually had some flavor…I’m not sure how but they didn’t just taste like beans.

FOOD NOTES: The restaurant itself isn’t anything impressive, but the fresh, authentic Mexican food is show stopping. The chicken enchiladas were fine, but the flavor of their rice and beans were exceptional compared to most places. Tongue sounds disgusting, but when you call it lengua and it tastes as good as it does at Taqueria Guadalajara, you can’t pass it up. They use a lot of cilantro so if you’re like me and think it tastes like soap…make sure to ask for everything without it. I definitely suggest the huarache, and would definitely be up for trying some of the other authentic menu options. If you’ve had menudo let me know what you think about the traditional Mexican stew made with beef stomach.