Six flavors for $6

Illustration by Mark Stivers

Street (read: cheap) eats: Sacramento has made a name for itself with outstanding Vietnamese food in Little Saigon and elsewhere, but we haven’t had Vietnamese restaurants that specifically focus on street food—until now.

Restaurateur Huan Pham says he wants to recreate the energy and free-for-all deliciousness of the Saigon markets of his youth at Saigon Street Eats (1827 Broadway), which had its grand opening September 1.

In Vietnam’s big cities, vendors cook their wares in the open air and compete against one another on bustling streets. This Land Park restaurant only has one vendor, but Pham has revitalized the formerly bland space of Pho Bac Hoa Viet by adorning the ceiling with colorful umbrellas and paper lanterns. Plus, the new business emphasizes cheap eats at around $6 to $10.

“The best thing about street food is it’s fresh,” he says. “People that sell it on the street, they don’t have a freezer. It’s cheaper, and whatever they prepare, they sell that day.”

The menu includes Vietnamese staples found elsewhere—pho, banh mi, vermicelli bowls—as well as some less common dishes, like lotus root and green papaya salads ($9), periwinkle and ham sausage ($6 for sea snails and ham “wrapped in lemon grass and ginger”) and a bo bia roll ($6).

This last treat—with its shredded jicama, carrots, basil, eggs, shrimp and Chinese sausage served with peanut sauce—was one of Pham’s favorites growing up, when he would save up coins to buy one snack on the way to school.

“Bo Bia is my favorite; when you’re a child, and you don’t have a lot of money and you don’t eat well, any time you get to buy some street food it’s a treat,” he says. “If you are lucky enough to grab the right bite into your mouth, the flavor will explode: sour, bitter, salty, sweet, crunchy. Everything explodes together.”

Unlucky cafe: Last week was a tough one for any Sacramento diners who treasure our storied greasy spoons. Though Lucky Cafe (1111 21st Street) lacked polish, that was also part of its charm that earned the breakfast joint a cult following during its 55 years in that location. And yet, an eviction notice was posted on its door last week. RIP Lucky Cafe. Now, get thee to Pancake Circus while this other slice of kitschy old-school Sacramento is still serving up greasy omelets among a zoo of wacky clowns.

Fusion pie:Pizza Porch found its porch this July, when it graduated from a food truck to a stable kitchen inside Republic Bar & Grill (908 15th Street). The business still dishes out classic pizzas along with the BBQ Chicken and Bacon ($12.90) and the Chicken Tikka ($12.90). This last one is the most popular pie, according to owner Gary Dhillon. “Naan has been around for centuries, so we knew the combination of bread and the savory Indian fusion sauces would go well with our in-house, fresh dough.”