604 Neighbourhoods is a weekly series appearing on the Inside Vancouver blog that will feature photos, history, and information about some of the city’s most distinct communities. Today’s feature is Little Saigon, a section of Kingsway between Fraser and Knight streets.
The Little Saigon business district was only recently given this title, distinguishing it as a unique part of the Kensington-Cedar Cottage neighbourhood. Back in 2011, Vancouver City Council approved the name, as did a large portion of the city’s Vietnamese community members, however some controversy lingered.
“…Not everyone in the community [agreed] with the choice. Some feel it would re-open wounds left from the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. When the conflict ended, the capital, once called Saigon, was renamed Ho Chi Minh City by the Communists. Vancouver’s first Vietnamese immigrants left to escape that regime.” [News1130]
Supporters pushed through, even presenting city staff with a petition with 3,000 signatures, and after consultations with the community the name was approved for the district. On Sunday, May 12, 2013 there was a parade along Kingsway leading up to an opening ceremony for Little Saigon.
Kingsway (called “Vancouver Road” until 1913) is historically a major thoroughfare for travel between New Westminster and Vancouver. It has several distinct business districts that range from Caribbean, Russian, and Filipino communities to East Asian and French as well. Little Saigon is packed with delis, restaurants, beauty salons, coffee shops, and bakeries.
Whether you’re looking for a crispy Banh Mi baguette sandwich with shredded chicken and pickled veggies or a wildly flavourful bowl of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) your cravings will be satisfied in Little Saigon. The highlight of the neighbourhood is definitely its dining options and as Sherman Chan from Sherman’s Food Adventures wrote: “If Robson can be declared the Ramen corridor, then Kingsway should really be known as the street of Banh Mi.”
Sherman is one of this city’s most trusted food bloggers so I followed up to ask him what makes Little Saigon such a hot spot. “I believe visitors should explore Kingsway (particularly in between Fraser and Knight) not only because it is the some of the best Vietnamese food in the GVRD, but because it is a place that most tourists do not visit.” Sherman added: “There is an honesty about the food. No frills, no gimmicks and reasonably-priced.”
Attractions & Getting Around
If you would like to visit Little Saigon you can hop on a #8 Fraser bus, #20 Victoria, #25 UBC up Nanaimo, or the #19 Metrotown that goes between the Burnaby shopping hub and Stanley Park.
Stay in a while in Kensington-Cedar Cottage to visit the Vancouver Public Library, one of the neighbourhoods many parks (including the off-leash area at Kingscrest Park), or the Kinsington Community Centre and Pool.