Young Le’s Margate restaurant is one of the few Broward sources for banh mi, and he proudly notes that the name of the flavorful, sub-like, Vietnamese sandwich was added to the Oxford Dictionary last year. At lunch, Le’s Saigon Cuisine offers nine varieties of banh mi with fillings such as ham, shredded pork, Vietnamese bologna, pork meatballs, roti chicken and pâté topped with pickled vegetables, jalapeños and house-made mayo. Saigon’s huge dinner menu offers Vietnamese soups, salads and rice and noodle dishes you’ll want to pair with salty lemonade, rich boba fruit shakes with chewy tapioca pearls. (Or choose a cocktail, beer or wine, including plum.)
Le, who fled his homeland after the fall of Saigon, helped pioneer Vietnamese food in Broward with Le’s House in Sunrise in the early 1990s. After closing it, he returned to Vietnam, sharpening his knowledge of his native cuisine. Coming back to Broward, he opened tiny Saigon Deli in Margate, and five years ago expanded into the adjacent storefront, growing from about 20 seats to 200.
Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is another main attraction at Saigon Cuisine. The restaurant adds a seafood version of the soup to more traditional offerings of beef and chicken. Order it by the cup or bowl, and use a spoon for the slow-simmered broth and chopsticks for the meat and noodles. Customize it with bean sprouts, culantro and Thai basil, which are served on the side.
Ambience: The attractive, contemporary decor is highlighted by a refurbished cyclo (rickshaw) and paintings by Vietnamese artists including Le himself. Le and his wife, Mailany, set the tone for the friendly, gracious service. The restaurant attracts a largely Asian clientele, but pictures and numbers on the menu make ordering easy for novices.