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Originally published April 29, 2010 at 1:09 PM | Page modified April 29, 2010 at 3:16 PM

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Dining Deals

Saigon Boat Cafe: Noodles so good, 'I could eat a lake of this stuff'

It's not often I find myself wishing a sunny day would turn stormy, but that's what good soup can do to you. I knew we'd find something...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saigon Boat Cafe

Vietnamese

2632 Alki Ave. S.W., Seattle, 206-932-5714

Hours: 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily.

Etc: Visa, MasterCard accepted; street parking; obstacles to access (stairs at the entry); no alcohol.

Prices: $

It's not often I find myself wishing a sunny day would turn stormy, but that's what good soup can do to you.

I knew we'd find something delicious when we traded the slightly briny air of Alki Beach for the incomparable sweetness of simmering broth that captivated us the minute we walked through the door of Saigon Boat Café.

The cook did not disappoint.

"I could eat a lake of this stuff," my favorite 8-year-old taster said as he pulled long strings of rice noodles from a hearty bowl of Vietnamese chicken soup, or pho. His buddy sucked down a blended mango shake and assured our friendly server that it was the best ever.

After settling in with some Vietnamese sandwiches (bahn mi), pho and vermicelli noodles, my young companions dug in while I turned my attention to the real star: the expansive view of Alki Beach and the Olympic Mountain range visible through large picture windows.

The menu: It includes pastries, coffee, smoothies ($4.95) and six types of sandwiches, ranging from turkey ham to tomato sardine on crunchy home-baked baguettes ($2.95). Vegetables, roasted chicken and barbecued and grilled pork are served in a variety of ways: in sandwiches, with vermicelli or rice (each $6.95, and both accompanied by salad-type vegetables), and in pho ($5.95 for a medium-size bowl). Seven kinds of beef pho also are available. Sweet milk tea served with tapioca beads (bubble tea) is $3.50.

What to write home about: The pho broth was dark and rich, and slightly on the sweet side, while the baguettes were delicately crunchy outside and pillow-soft inside. The quantity of meat in the sandwiches was more akin to thin Parisian-style sandwiches than a New York deli's, but the herbed chicken and barbecue beef had enough flavor to shine through the jalapeños.

What to skip: The grilled pork was flavorless.

The setting: A tiny slip of a place, it's trailerlike appearance outside belies the warm feel inside. Fewer than a dozen tables make for cozy dining. Patio seating puts you even closer to the beach action.

Summing up: The tab for pho, vermicelli with pork and an egg roll, two sandwiches and two bubble teas came to $27.81 before tip.

Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or skelleher@seattletimes.com

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