Sai-Gon Palace

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One of my favorite things to do in this city is to be a “tourist in my own town”. I’ll head out into various neighborhoods of Toronto, armed with a nap-sack, camera and wallet and take in neighborhood or two, snapping photos, stopping in some shops and ultimately, recharging with a bite to eat.

One of my neighborhoods in the city is Kensington Market, a area of town that was home to Toronto’s earlier immigrant populations and their stores. The neighborhood has changed but it is still worth visiting with one eye to the areas past with fruit and vegetable stands, a few butcher shops and a series of fish mongers. In Kensington Market, you will also find lots of second-hand and vintage clothing stores…all patronized by the student with a budget or the trendy person looking for that stylish piece of clothing to launch a new trend.

Kensington Market is located just west of Spadina Avenue and home to Toronto’s original Chinatown (Toronto boasts of a few Chinatowns) and its borders are College Street to the north and Dundas Street to the south and Bathurst Street to the west. When visiting Kensington Market, you get to visit Chinatown on Spadina Avenue…an avenue in every sense of the term. You will find a wide avenue along with dedicated tracks for Toronto’s famed streetcars.

Toronto’s urban planners had grand schemes for the city. Toronto was supposed to have wide avenues like Spadina and University Avenues to run parallel to each other in the series of north-south streets in the city core. The Great Depression changed all this and a more frugal eye towards urban planning set it. There would be no more Spadina Avenues.

After checking out the vintage stores, picking up some spices, the odd kitchen utensil or Asian ingredient – I’ve worked up an appetite that has to hold me  for the rest of the afternoon and the ride back home, in time for dinner. One of the places I like to eat is at the Saigon Palace. Located on the west side of Spadina, just south of College street is where you’ll find this Toronto favoriite. The name says it – Saigon…you’re coming here for Vietnamese food and like me and the many others who stopped in for lunch, it’s all about the Pho.

Pho is a Vietnamese soup that has shot quickly up the list of my favourite foods to eat. A bowl of Pho contains a huge handful of noodles, an aromatic broth that’s redolent with star anise, scallions and fresh coriander leaves. Walking into Saigon Palace, you’ll be scratching your head wondering where the Palace-like atmosphere is but be assured, this bustling Toronto favourite makes up for its lack of decor with prompt service, clean establishment, delicious filling Pho that’s light on your pocket book.

You’ll be quickly seated (maybe even beside a stranger), the menu is provided along with a piece of paper and pencil. Many Asian eateries have bridged the language gap with this ordering method: scan the vast menu, choose your meal and write the number(s) down of your order. I come for the Pho…I like the combo of rare beef and beef balls.

Standard procedure here, a pot of green tea arrives at your table, the place of bean sprouts, cluster of Thai basil and lime wedge arrive before the soup. Grab your chopsticks (or ask for gwei-lo cutlery) and bring the Sriracha Sauce and Hoisin to within reach. The Pho arrives. Squirt some Sriracha (hot sauce), some Hoisin, squeeze the lime juice in your soup, tear the basil leaves and add those into the mix and I finally dump the bean sprouts in. The chopsticks are my instruments for mixing up the cold ingredients into the hot soup.

Lunch is slurped, relished and sated (and wiped off my face and shirt). My belly is full and my wallet is relatively unscathed. I walk away with paying for lunch for almost $7.00.

Saigon Palace details, location and contact details can be found here.

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© 2007-2010 Peter Minakis

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Peter Minakis

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23 Comments for “Sai-Gon Palace”


this is what i miss most about not living in a big city – the international culture
we all need a bit of this every now and then


Oh my god, that photo of the guy carrying a pig is HILARIOUS! It reminded me of the book “Heat” by Bill Buford. You have to read it if you haven’t already – a tale of this guy (former New Yorker writer) who apprentices with Mario Batali. He also moves to Italy to apprentice with a butcher in Tuscany. But in one chapter he buys a pig in New York City, slings it over his bicycle and takes it up to his tiny apt. to butcher it. It is a great read.


Great to see your City through your eyes Peter :D. We should all do the same and share with other bloggers. That first picture is so good! The man is actually in the middle of the street! And so is the piggy!!!! And far ahead there’s another man with another piggy… what an image!!!

Thanks for the wandering :D.


Thanks for this review and trip down memory lane! I went to U of T (basically just down the block) and we’d hit the Saigon all the time for inexpensive, filling and delicious meals. I still try to make a stop there whenever we visit TO. I was always partial to #33 (or so it used to be on the menu), a big bowl of vermicelli with BBQ pork, amazing spring rolls, and assorted veggies and peanuts. Throw on Sriracha and a bowl of fish sauce and it was heaven. We’d also try ordering different drinks on the menu just to see what they were. I remember once I was surprised when stirring a cup of coffee to have an intact and uncooked egg yolk float to the top. Eventually I settled on the regular iced coffees though. Looks like next time I’ll need to try the Pho!


Thanks for taking us around, Peter! I don’t check out my environs as often as I should.
I keep thinking that that man is going to soil his jacket!! aack!!


I love adventures like these when I travel and it’s a great idea to do them close to home (as I learned when I did my Haiti post.) I guess that’s part of the lure of city-living in a cross cultural environment. What a photo op with the pig! I wonder if he was being carted from home to market…or vice versa.


It has been years since I have been to Kensington Market. Would I date myself if I said it was in Home Ec class in Grade 12:D Thank you for taking us on an armchair journey!!


Thanks for taking me on a neigborhood journey through your city. I enjoyed it. I love the fresh pig that was being carried down the street hoisted over the shoulder. Great post!


I had pho for the first time at a place in London Ontario…except mine had tendon, tripe, etc…a little too authentic for me! But I would do it again so long as it didn’t have rubbery tripe and fatty tendon…


How funny! I head to Saigon Mall close to me a lot; it is so clean and it does’n’t stink like Hong Kong Market or the others. Plus I am on a quest to find the cheapest box of Pocky (I found it there); Pho is great, especially when it is cold.


I bet wherever pig man was heading, they make some good roast pork! I love pho – I think it may be the best lunch anywhere in the world.


What a great way to spend an afternoon. I’m afraid I don’t live in a big enough city to explore any new neighborhoods, but certainly an excursion to NYC can fit the bill. The one thing I can always do locally is try new restaurants and that’s always a great way to experience something new in your own neighborhood.

That looks like a delicious meal for a great bargain too. Do you at least get a spoon for the broth?


i really love your talk toronto section- i am new to this city and want to know more and more. my husband and i frequent pho pasteur- it’s our fave, but i want to try this place now, as per your recommendation. this was quite close to my old office (Queen’s Park) but is a bit of a walk from my new location (Bay&Wellesley). shall make it a weekend lunch outing with my husband. dying for that sriracha and lime right now! best wishes, shayma


This little piggy went to market! Love that there’s not one, but two over-the-shoulder pigs! Thanks for the interesting tour… the Pho looks SO good!


xaxaxaxaax!!Peter, η φωτογραφία με το γουρούνι είναι όλα τα λεφτά !!!!
πολύ ωραίο το πόστ σου !!!

φιλια και καλό σ/κ