By the time we arrived in Houston, my husband Rory and I were hankering for Viet food. I had been traveling for a week and hadn’t had a drop of fish sauce or bowl of rice. After all the amazing barbecue and Mexican food, we were looking forward to a change of cuisine. Plus, Houston’s Vietnamese community is one of the nation’s largest, the biggest in the American South.
I was looking forward to driving up and down Bellaire Boulevard, the H-Town equivalent to Bolsa Avenue in Westminster, California. While there are a few Vietnamese restaurants in the main downtown area where we were staying, the concentration of the Viet shops and services were located in the southwestern part of the city, in what’s referred to as Chinatown. Most of the activity is centered on Bellaire, the main drag. (The former Chinatown was located in the main downtown area but increases in real estate prices drove Asian businesses further out.)
We regrettably only had one-and-a-half days in Houston, and our exploration was limited to Friday afternoon. What struck me as really neat was that at one end of Bellaire, there seemed to be more Chinese businesses with a few Viet ones but as you drove toward Alief, it was reversed. Business signs mostly had Vietnamese and English with just a tiny sprinkling of Chinese characters.
There were a number of handsome, modern shopping centers as well as near-vacant shopping centers from decades ago. With palm trees lining some areas, it reminded me lots of Little Saigon in Southern California. I felt quite at home, but experienced some unexpected things.