A unique area in San Diego


Kay Tieu, Staff Writer

Within City Heights, there lies an area with great meaning to me known as Little Saigon  – a small enclave along El Cajon Boulevard, brimming with Vietnamese culture. With its many Vietnamese restaurants, stores, and small businesses, it feels unique and welcoming to me. Though much of the stores are Vietnamese, there are also Chinese influences and businesses that reflect other types of cultures in the area, with many of them being family owned and operated. The district holds sentimental value to me and it’s become one of the things I like best about City Heights.

I spent a lot of my youth in the Little Saigon area. I recall how my parents would drop by and grab items at Sin Lee (– a grocery store), or how we would occasionally eat out at Pho Hoa (– a Vietnamese restaurant), or buy baguettes and banh mi at Cali Baguette Express (– a sandwich shop), or how we’d refill water at Vinh Hoa (– a drinking water supplier). My favorite store is the Chinese Bakery right beside Sin Lee. Years ago, while my parents worked, relatives – usually my aunt and uncle – used to look after my sister and I. My aunt and uncle ran a business – a bakery that sold Chinese-styled desserts and treats – so I ended up spending much of my time there when I was younger. I’d watch as they went about taking customer orders, and I’d follow my aunt into the back where she’d make the cakes. While it’s true that my connection to the owners makes me more inclined to view the business favorably, I genuinely believed (and still believe) that the pastries she made and sold were some of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted. I enjoyed all of the goods that my aunt made, but my favorites were the egg tarts and sponge cakes.

From the mural art wall on the side of Sin Lee, to the architecture of the Asia Business Center, to the pagoda roof trash cans, the overall atmosphere of Little Saigon is different from any area I’ve been to. Its wide sidewalks, and the district’s vicinity to residential areas, helps make it accessible to the community. Though a small enclave, I’ve come to appreciate all the businesses and the small things that make up City Heights’ Little Saigon.