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Saigon Pho and Cafe, Oak Park (prior, Forest Park)

Saigon Pho and Cafe, Oak Park (prior, Forest Park)
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  • Saigon Pho and Cafe, Oak Park (prior, Forest Park)

    Post #1 - April 28th, 2011, 3:25 pm
    Post #1 - April 28th, 2011, 3:25 pm Post #1 - April 28th, 2011, 3:25 pm
    Even with recent arrivals like Marion Street Cheese Market, it's hard to find a light meal with fresh bread and crispy vegetables in the Oak Park / Forest Park area, the landscape dominated by beefy sandwiches, red sauce Italian, eccentric Mexican, pub food, diners, and ye olde popcorn and cornsyrup-softserve icecream emporia.

    The recently-opened Saigon Pho and Cafe knocks this paradigm sideways. This is the family's first restaurant outside of Vietnam, though they have many connections in the local community. Bread for the banh mi is delivered every morning from Argyle, pates, soups and grilled meats prepared in house. They are nice to a fault and already handling brisk business in their early days.

    Image

    I've had two banh mi - grilled chicken and very light char siu pork tenderloin - both completely satisfying, since the bread is right on and the vegetables well-handled. My bowl of pho today was elegantly simple, with a nice beef-spice balance, shavings of rare flank, and sweet raw onion. They have Thai basil, large limes, sharp jalapeno, and fresh sprouts to round things out. The bowl's overall clarity was to my taste, and the presentation hit the right pricepoint as well (sandwiches are $3.50, soups in the $6 range).

    Image

    A special shout-out goes to the bubble teas and smoothies, with fresh fruit and tea bases and your choice of tapioca (slightly overdone) or coconut gels. These are hard to find on the West Side. I'm glad for the arrival.

    More reports growing here:

    http://www.livehereoakpark.com/forum/to ... nt%3A49311

    Saigon Pho and Cafe
    7237 Madison St #4
    Forest Park, IL
  • Post #2 - April 28th, 2011, 3:33 pm
    Post #2 - April 28th, 2011, 3:33 pm Post #2 - April 28th, 2011, 3:33 pm
    Glad to know this is open and thanks for the review. Will probably check it out for lunch tomorrow.
  • Post #3 - April 28th, 2011, 4:45 pm
    Post #3 - April 28th, 2011, 4:45 pm Post #3 - April 28th, 2011, 4:45 pm
    Good find, Matt. I'll have to check it out.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #4 - April 28th, 2011, 7:29 pm
    Post #4 - April 28th, 2011, 7:29 pm Post #4 - April 28th, 2011, 7:29 pm
    Yes, thanks. This sounds very promising and right around the corner!
  • Post #5 - April 28th, 2011, 9:33 pm
    Post #5 - April 28th, 2011, 9:33 pm Post #5 - April 28th, 2011, 9:33 pm
    Man, this may possibly change my life for the better. I know what's for lunch tomorrow!
  • Post #6 - April 29th, 2011, 8:28 am
    Post #6 - April 29th, 2011, 8:28 am Post #6 - April 29th, 2011, 8:28 am
    Matt - you just beat me to it! I happened to pass by it 2 days ago, did a double take, and then went in for a bubble tea. As you mentioned, the owners also have a restaurant in Vietnam, so that in itself is promising. The mango bubble tea had great flavor, but was a little icy and the tapioca pearls were mushy. Nevertheless, I am glad to have a bubble tea purveyor in our neighborhood, and even more glad to finally get some Vietnamese food in our part of town! I plan to go ASAP to try out some of their food. The waiter did say that he would put their pho against any of the uptown versions. A strong statement, but I will happily be a judge.
    "My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people."

    -Orson Welles-
  • Post #7 - April 29th, 2011, 9:37 am
    Post #7 - April 29th, 2011, 9:37 am Post #7 - April 29th, 2011, 9:37 am
    This could be a terrific addition to the local food scene.
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #8 - April 29th, 2011, 9:39 am
    Post #8 - April 29th, 2011, 9:39 am Post #8 - April 29th, 2011, 9:39 am
    FYI, they serve bubble tea at New Pot on Lake. The addition of Vietnamese to the hood is a more novel development.
  • Post #9 - April 29th, 2011, 9:49 am
    Post #9 - April 29th, 2011, 9:49 am Post #9 - April 29th, 2011, 9:49 am
    FYI, they serve bubble tea at New Pot on Lake. The addition of Vietnamese to the hood is a more novel development.


    I actually just found that out about 2 weeks ago, and it was actually a pretty good version. Still, I would rather frequent Saigon Pho if I can get an authentic banh mi with it.
    "My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people."

    -Orson Welles-
  • Post #10 - April 29th, 2011, 11:17 am
    Post #10 - April 29th, 2011, 11:17 am Post #10 - April 29th, 2011, 11:17 am
    Maybe this could be the next boys night out in Oak Park.
  • Post #11 - April 29th, 2011, 11:28 am
    Post #11 - April 29th, 2011, 11:28 am Post #11 - April 29th, 2011, 11:28 am
    Great news, can't wait to check it out. I just couldn't muster heading out to Argyle for Pho fix in this cold spell. Now all we need in the area is Ethiopian Diamond 3 and I would be happy.
  • Post #12 - April 29th, 2011, 12:58 pm
    Post #12 - April 29th, 2011, 12:58 pm Post #12 - April 29th, 2011, 12:58 pm
    Popped in for a couple of sandwiches and bubble tea for lunch. They've been open for five days and told me business was so-so, but hey, it's been less than a week. Just wait for word to get out. Indeed, I bumped into someone first thing this morning who had already stumbled upon it on day two and was already heading back for more!

    My sandwich was pretty fresh and tasty, by the way. I had the BBQ, and also picked up a "Saigon" (that is, pretty traditional banh mi) for later. The bubble tea was slightly less successful, as all the tapioca was frozen in a clump at the bottom, but it still hit the spot this spring-ish day, especially after I bit into a pepper.
  • Post #13 - April 30th, 2011, 5:39 pm
    Post #13 - April 30th, 2011, 5:39 pm Post #13 - April 30th, 2011, 5:39 pm
    Couldn't hold out. Zoo and pho & banh mi today. Chicken and Char Siu banh mi - totally fine - nice fresh stuff - good bread, fresh veggie innards - nuff said. I went with the Pho Ga. Broth light and fresh, clean except for a hint of lingering something or other that threw it off balance for my taste. The s/o and Jr, really liked it tho. I didn't HATE it, it just wasn't my thing. I think it was cinnamon, but it makes more sense that it was a strong hint of galangal and ginger that came off tasting like cinnamon. I dunno. My spidey sense says it was cinnamon. The egg rolls were loaded with pork, and I dug em a LOT. Fresh spring rolls were decent.

    Banh Mi, egg rolls, and a pho with beef or pork next time for me. A very welcome addition to the Forest Park strip, IMO.

    A middle eastern joint would be nice too!

    Edited to add - Thanks for the heads up, Matt!
    We cannot be friends if you do not know the difference between Mayo and Miracle Whip.
  • Post #14 - April 30th, 2011, 8:28 pm
    Post #14 - April 30th, 2011, 8:28 pm Post #14 - April 30th, 2011, 8:28 pm
    I had dinner there tonight. Solid food. Had the spring rolls, fried egg rolls, and #5 well-done beef brisket and tendon pho. My husband had the pork vermicelli and that was tasty too. The folks (family-run?) who run it are very nice. I'm really excited to have a Vietnamese restaurant in the neighborhood for pho, banh mi, Vietnamese coffee, and fresh fruit smoothies (esp. for the hot summer!).
  • Post #15 - May 1st, 2011, 4:17 pm
    Post #15 - May 1st, 2011, 4:17 pm Post #15 - May 1st, 2011, 4:17 pm
    Ate lunch there yesterday. I thought the egg rolls were decent. The pho seemed to lack flavor as did the two banh mi we tried. I hope they improve as time goes on.
  • Post #16 - May 1st, 2011, 7:10 pm
    Post #16 - May 1st, 2011, 7:10 pm Post #16 - May 1st, 2011, 7:10 pm
    We got the grilled pork banh mi and Saigon "special" pho to go this weekend. The banh mi was really tasty, and all the flavors melded nicely. The pho was good, with a nice selection of beef, pork, meatballs and chicken, but the broth was a little lacking in depth. Not that I am complaining too much, as I will certainly be back to try more things.
    "My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people."

    -Orson Welles-
  • Post #17 - May 27th, 2011, 6:46 pm
    Post #17 - May 27th, 2011, 6:46 pm Post #17 - May 27th, 2011, 6:46 pm
    Tried several things off the limited menu. All were pretty good. They said they will be adding more things to the menu over time. Strong iced coffee. A great local addition!
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #18 - May 27th, 2011, 6:51 pm
    Post #18 - May 27th, 2011, 6:51 pm Post #18 - May 27th, 2011, 6:51 pm
    dradeli wrote:Ate lunch there yesterday. I thought the egg rolls were decent. The pho seemed to lack flavor as did the two banh mi we tried. I hope they improve as time goes on.


    Based on my visit about three weeks ago, I think they're holding back. They say they aren't, but I got to believe they're being careful not to scare locals.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #19 - June 6th, 2011, 12:02 pm
    Post #19 - June 6th, 2011, 12:02 pm Post #19 - June 6th, 2011, 12:02 pm
    Just a quick hit: I had a bowl of pho and a bahn mi the other day. The pho was terrific. Better than I recall on my previous visit. However, the BBQ pork bahn mi was pretty disappointing. There is a serious lack of vegetal matter in these babies. It should be loaded with cilantro, jalapenos, and pickled radish/carrots, etc. Next time I am going to ask them to load it up and offer to pay extra. Needs extra mayo too.

    "where's the vegie?"
    i used to milk cows
  • Post #20 - June 6th, 2011, 2:28 pm
    Post #20 - June 6th, 2011, 2:28 pm Post #20 - June 6th, 2011, 2:28 pm
    I hate to say it, but the Saigon Sandwich c. week four or five or whatever wasn't nearly as tasty as it was c. week one. Less spicy, too. But I need more samples. Besides, still need to try the pho.
  • Post #21 - June 6th, 2011, 3:01 pm
    Post #21 - June 6th, 2011, 3:01 pm Post #21 - June 6th, 2011, 3:01 pm
    I tried to swing by to pick up lunch on my way to work today, and a sign on the door stated that starting today they will be closed on Mondays. Drat! Well, I will still make it back to make sure they aren't slipping too much. I was in such a mood for banh mi, only to be thwarted. I did just read a NY Times recipe on making a "pseudo" banh mi (meaning banh-mi-esque, with quick pickled veggies and sauteed ground pork), and it actually sounded pretty tasty, so I may have to go that route this week.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/dining/23appe.html
    "My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people."

    -Orson Welles-
  • Post #22 - June 6th, 2011, 4:54 pm
    Post #22 - June 6th, 2011, 4:54 pm Post #22 - June 6th, 2011, 4:54 pm
    borborigmy wrote:I tried to swing by to pick up lunch on my way to work today, and a sign on the door stated that starting today they will be closed on Mondays. Drat! Well, I will still make it back to make sure they aren't slipping too much. I was in such a mood for banh mi, only to be thwarted. I did just read a NY Times recipe on making a "pseudo" banh mi (meaning banh-mi-esque, with quick pickled veggies and sauteed ground pork), and it actually sounded pretty tasty, so I may have to go that route this week.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/dining/23appe.html


    That looks good!

    Similar experiences for me at Saigon - bread still excellent but sandwiches not as savory or packed as week one; pho seems to have gotten a bump in the right direction this month. I find that the staff is appealing and eager to correct.
  • Post #23 - August 31st, 2011, 3:36 pm
    Post #23 - August 31st, 2011, 3:36 pm Post #23 - August 31st, 2011, 3:36 pm
    I live right by this place and got in there for the first time this past Saturday.

    We started with the fresh spring rolls (not the fried) which were very tasty. I liked how they wrapped them with the halved shrimp visible through the wrap. I couldn't quite place the other meat that was in them. Almost like a prosciutto or non-greasy salami. I enjoyed these.

    I had the medium rare beef pho. It was my first time ever having pho and I'll admit that I pictured it with thicker noodles based on a Man vs. Food pho challenge I saw the week before. The noodles were spaghetti thin but the dish was still very good.

    I enjoyed the BBQ pork bahn mi even more. This was a very tasty sandwich. I had to take some of the jalapenos off and just nibble them on the side with each bite as the sandwich seemed loaded with them (for my tastes anyway.) Their bread is really tasty and I thought this was a really good sandwich all around.

    The whole meal for my wife and I with fruity drinks and such was all under $40. We walked out completley stuffed with big smiles on our faces. We'll be making this a regular stop when we eat out now.

    Thanks to the forum for brining this place to my attention.
  • Post #24 - October 8th, 2011, 9:56 pm
    Post #24 - October 8th, 2011, 9:56 pm Post #24 - October 8th, 2011, 9:56 pm
    I stopped by today to grab something to go so I could eat while having a cold beer and watching the Hawks home opener. I got the fresh spring roll and the barbecued pork bahn mi.

    I really enjoyed both. The spring roll had a crunchy component I couldn't place but the texture was a nice balance to the other ingredients. My bahn mi had a good amount of bbq pork and I got plenty of vegetables including jalapeno, head and shoulders above the one from Bahn Mi Express in the loop I had earlier this week for lunch. For under $10 I'm very happy with my dinner.

    I'll be back soon to try the pho.
  • Post #25 - December 27th, 2011, 9:46 pm
    Post #25 - December 27th, 2011, 9:46 pm Post #25 - December 27th, 2011, 9:46 pm
    The spouse and I found ourselves in Oak Park after a wake, and ventured into Saigon Pho and Cafe, in need of something filling and warm.

    We found it!

    I don't claim expertise in the different variations of pho, (I read the recent pho crawl on Argyle thread with tremendous envy) but I do know that the best pho starts with the quality of the broth, and at Saigon Pho and Cafe, the broth is clear, well flavored, and nicely spiced. I got hints of star anise, pepper, cilantro, and cinnamon in the beef pho, and the vegetarian pho my wife tried also had a deeply flavored, clean tasting broth.

    Each pho featured lots of thin rice noodles, with good texture and flavor, and the accompaniments (bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapeno slices) were fresh and tasty. My beef pho featured the thin sliced "flank", which I believe was round steak. The beef was tender and, well, beefy, while the vegan pho had lots of different vegetables, all fresh and crisp.

    The bill was less than $20 before tip, which strikes me as a really good value. I thought both bowls of pho were very good, and I left with the feeling that I had just had something to eat that was totally wholesome, satisfying, and actually good for me.

    And for the price, you cannot beat that!
  • Post #26 - December 28th, 2011, 12:09 pm
    Post #26 - December 28th, 2011, 12:09 pm Post #26 - December 28th, 2011, 12:09 pm
    This place has become a regular stop for my wife and I. There hasn't been a 2 week period that's gone by since my post in August where we haven't gone here to grab sandwiches and/or pho. We both get cravings for those sandwiches pretty often lately. (the bbq pork bahn mi.) The staff are really nice people and they've been asking lately if there's anything they can do to make the place better. I can't come up with anything as I always leave there happy.

    I hadn't even considered it as a vegetarian option. I have a friend visiting this Friday that's vegetarian. I guess I know where I'm taking him now.
  • Post #27 - December 29th, 2011, 8:50 pm
    Post #27 - December 29th, 2011, 8:50 pm Post #27 - December 29th, 2011, 8:50 pm
    What a difference 4 months has made. I really did not like the food here in August. Tonight it was much better. The egg rolls were great. The spring roll was different in that it had something crunchy in it unique and not bad. The pho was much better, nice flavor. The BBQ pork banh mi was so much better. We really like the chicken and rice dish. A more extensive menu and much improved taste profile. It will not be 4 months til I get back. They still don't serve beer or let you BYOB but the waiter said they should have both options soon.
  • Post #28 - March 16th, 2014, 9:25 am
    Post #28 - March 16th, 2014, 9:25 am Post #28 - March 16th, 2014, 9:25 am
    Had to report back here for Spring 2014. Wife dragged me out from Six Corners to look at scratched and dented appliances at the Sears Outlet in Melrose Park so I looked up LTH for "Forest Park". Bingo found this review.

    Saigon Pho is alive and doing well. 6pm Saturday we got seated immediately. First up Bánh xèo, the crepe. Perfectly cooked without that bad flavor that can happen when it's overly browned. I believe it's white shrimp they are using, great texture and flavor. Next up was grilled pork spring rolls. Way better than average with some kind of "crystals" in the bite. I'm assuming it's like a pork burnt end which was really tasty. Main courses were pho, brisket and tendon....can't go wrong with it...which was on par with Lincoln Ave's Hoanh Long. Second entree was combination seafood stirfry with crispy noodles. Interesting selection of fresh veggies with some magic homemade fish balls shows up in the dish too. Sauce for the dish is a very savory seemingly long cooked broth with hints of France in it. Servers were very attentive and knowledgeable.

    Two appetizers, two entrees (darn good pho), one coffee drink, 44 bucks. That's a steal for the quality of the cuisine and level of service. Downtown Forest Park is lucky to have Saigon Pho on Madison St..
  • Post #29 - March 17th, 2014, 1:22 am
    Post #29 - March 17th, 2014, 1:22 am Post #29 - March 17th, 2014, 1:22 am
    Kenji, glad to hear your visit was so satisfying. Have not been since my first visit years ago but am now inspired to make return trip.
    "Don't you ever underestimate the power of a female." Bootsy Collins
  • Post #30 - March 17th, 2014, 8:54 am
    Post #30 - March 17th, 2014, 8:54 am Post #30 - March 17th, 2014, 8:54 am
    Mrs Kenji only wants to sit and eat at quality joints. I knew i could count on LTH to steer me right!

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