Vietnamese food-to-go shines at Saigon Deli

Saigon Deli is easy to miss, and better reached from the west or south.

“No stir fry noodles  — too busy to make,’’ the man behind Saigon Deli’s counter told me.

“No, no, no,” he answered to other requests. The art of restraint is lost on me, so my order grew, and while there was no “ho, ho, ho’’ from the Ho Chi Minh of Vietnamese delis, his demeanor did soften. By the time I left, he was downright accommodating. Fellow fork lifter Cristina B. sings Saigon’s praises as having the “best banh mi’’ around. The Saigon sub offers a harmonic, ying and yang as pork faces off cilantro and peppers snuggled together with julienned daikon, cucumbers and carrots. Crimson grilled pork was the most fought-over sandwich, but the shredded pork skin and meatball bahn mi hit high flavor notes. I’m a big, fussy, wuss  — I didn’t try the head cheese sub. You taste it and let me know.

Saigon’s spring rolls, rice-paper wrapped torpedoes, plump with julienned carrots, sprouts, mint, pork and shrimp, have a tasty scallion fuse. Nice veggies create a crunchy snap and the rich peanut sauce added zing.  Saigon’s rice menu teems with bun (rice noodles), com (steamed rice) and com tam (broken rice) dishes.

Com Tam with pork packs a lot of flavor.

Com Tam with grilled pork starts my adventure, the plate paired with carrot and daikon salad. Vietnamese families start their day with steaming-hot, nutritious pho. Use your chopsticks to untangle the silken rice noodles filling the aromatic broth spiced with a little cinnamon and ginger, all top with pretty pink, rare slices of brisket.

You’re presented with fresh lime wedges, bean sprouts, jalapenos and basil to customize the soup to taste.  Fowl pho – don’t you love saying that  — includes chicken, and there are meatballs, tripe and tendon. We tried one with shrimp and it’s also a winner.

Whatever you order, finish with a boba smoothie. Something you won’t see at your neighborhood corner deli, these sinh are a whirl of ice and beans, jackfruit, avocado, durian, taro or other fruity choices.

Saigon Deli’s Banh mi are a harmonic ying and yang of flavors.

You know you are in good company when almost all of the dozen tables are taken by Asian families. It’s not because of Saigon Deli’s atmosphere: so ho-hum it could just as easily house a pizzeria or bagel shop. You do have a glimpse of the cooks working in the kitchen. Its unisex bathroom was a jumble of cleaning products and other storage items. There were some very un-pretty ceiling views.

A note to first timers coming from the east: it’s best to approach from the west or south, to take an easy right into the small shopping plaza that houses Lien Hoa Oriental Market (otherwise you face a treacherous U-turn).

Saigon Deli

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
No reservations
Find it: 3692 W. Waters Ave., Tampa
Pay for it:  Discover, MC, V
No alcohol
Reach them:  (813) 932-0300


Rice paper-wrapped spring rolls hold plump shrimp.

If you’re like me and  can’t get enough Vietnamese fresh rolls, consider making them for your next party. An easy recipe is on


Cut it out:

Man’s search for meaning is endless. So is the necessity of great knives. Alert reader Sam S. wants to know where to get knives sharpened in Tampa.


Saigon Deli on Urbanspoon

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2 comments to Vietnamese food-to-go shines at Saigon Deli

  • Julie Smith

    I discovered Banh mi in Corvallis, Oregon, last summer and was instantly hooked. Your “yin and yang” comparison was the perfect description. Ah, the cilantro! Ah, pickled carrots! Thanks for letting me know where to find my next one. No to mention your comprehensive an detailed account of everything else on the menu! Love reading your stuff.

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