Alabama Restaurant Feature: Saigon Noodle House
by Alabama Food Staff
Why Alabama? Why Birmingham?
After fleeing Vietnam, settling in New Orleans, then moving to Birmingham in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, our founders opened the original Saigon Noodle House on Highway 280 in 2009. Pairing with Jim ‘N Nick’s founder Nick Pihakis & his Fresh Hospitality restaurant group (also responsible for Big Bad Breakfast, Little Donkey, & Taziki’s – to name a few), we then sought out the perfect place to open a new location. With what’s been going on and everyone finally realizing the food, entertainment, and residential potential all around downtown Birmingham, specifically Avondale, we knew we wanted to be a part of this new and exciting scene. Our search led us to the old Bottletree building on 3rd Avenue South. With a fun, lively atmosphere, full bar, and fresh authentic food, we are thrilled to add another great spot, as well as a little diversity to the mix!
Where did the concept for Saigon Noodle House come from?
An homage to the recipes and flavors of their father’s original food cart in Vietnam, our founders wanted to bring a taste of their homeland to the American south. Then, as with all Fresh Hospitality concepts, we start with a commitment to excellence – meaning fresh, never-frozen ingredients (we grow our own Thai Basil!), chef-inspired dishes, and no shortcuts. When you begin with those things, everything else falls into place.
What’s your favorite thing about the food scene here?
That it’s growing and getting noticed! Over the past few years, we have seen a huge influx of restaurants and chefs coming into our city, and they aren’t just coming in, they are succeeding. From James Beard award-winning chef concepts to smaller, family-owned joints, the diversity you have now when picking a place to eat is incredible. Don’t get me wrong, Birmingham has always had a great food scene, but with even more respected restaurants comes even more notoriety and that’s not bad for anyone.
How has it been since you opened?
We are loving it! Incredibly positive reviews and our love of the process keeps us happy! But ask anyone, opening a restaurant is hard work. Even after the building is built and ingredients are ordered, you still deal with the most important part: people to serve it to! And for them to come in, they have to know we are here. So getting our name out there and letting folks know we are ready to please, as well as convincing some sticklers to try something a little outside the box, is our main goal now. That and our bar should be full every night! It’s really something to see!
The fan favorite is probably our famous spring rolls. Hand-rolled to order, they are packed with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs grown right in our garden, lettuce, cucumber, a crunchy rice paper stick, and your choice of char-grilled pork, gulf shrimp, char-grilled pork AND gulf shrimp, chicken or tofu. We also take great pride in creating the traditional Pho soups from South Vietnam. As a result, the broths (chicken, beef, or veggie) are lighter, sweeter, and fresher. Served with a plate of Thai Basil from our garden, bean sprouts, jalapenos and lime for the perfect mix of healthy and hearty – and with three different bowl sizes, it works for a light lunch or a full dinner.
The views expressed here are those of the author.