Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Fri October 14 2016

Exploring Orlando’s Little Vietnam

Destination & Tourism | Susan Young | October 14, 2016

Exploring Orlando’s Little Vietnam

Photos by James Ryan

San Francisco has its Chinatown, New York boasts Little Italy, but few travelers know that Orlando has its own Little Vietnam, and it’s not part of Epcot. Thousands of Vietnamese war refugees fled their homes in the 1970’s, relocating throughout the United States. Many landed in central Florida, keeping their culture alive in an area, adjacent to downtown, now known as the Mills/50 District. The name denotes the intersection of two major arteries, Mills Avenue and Highway 50 (also known as Colonial Drive).

Here you will find a plethora of restaurants, grocers, shops and services, covering a wide array of Asian nationalities, not only that of Viet Nam. The Mills/50 District holds dozens of restaurants including Chinese, Japanese and Thai. You can find everything from tacos with Pan Asian fillings at Tako Cheena, to Feng Shui products at local retail shops, to live eel and lychee trees at area markets.

Here is a sampling of dining choices you’ll find if you visit this fascinating sector of Orlando.

Little Saigon Restaurant – This Asian staple has been around forever and is a safe bet if you’re not a connoisseur of Vietnamese fare. The menu choices are ample and you’ll not be disappointed with the noodles, rice plates or pho.

King Cajun Crawfish -  The New Orleans influence is alive in Vietnamese food. Having run a restaurant in Louisiana for 15 years, owner, and chef, Ha Nguyen moved to Orlando after Hurricane Katrina, setting up shop on Mills Avenue. From Jambalaya to Beignets, the mix of Cajun and Asian is a perfect blend of flavors to satisfy either craving.

Anh Hong – Located on the corner of Mills and 50, this is another go-to Vietnamese restaurant boasting decades on this site, open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every single day. Their menu is so large you might want to do your homework ahead of time online and arrive with a favorite in mind.

Pho K5 – There is no shortage of Pho choices in the city. Pho K5 is short for Kinh 5, the name of the beautiful village from which the family originated. This is one of many Pho restaurants in the area with names ranging from Pho 88 to Pho Hoa to Pho Vinh. All are unique and worth a visit.

READ MORE: 6 Top Chefs Changing the Orlando Food Scene

Vietnamese markets have also sprung up throughout the area. Dong-A Imports and Supermarket features gift items, restaurant supplies, herbal remedies along with fresh seafood and meats, and wine, beer and Saki choices. Many have been known to zone out while staring into the windows full of Asian ceramics and tchotchkes, sitting at the traffic light in front of this massive store.

The Tien Hung Market exudes a French influence with their Bahn Mi sandwiches, the bread being baked in-house. One can also find Dragon and Jack Fruit, among other mysterious cuisine. The variety of sushi ingredients is amazing. Upon entering the market, you might feel you’ve been transported to an exotic place with the scent of spices from Vietnam or Thailand.

The newly opened Mia Supermarket boasts an in-house Formosa Bakery, which has been in another location in the Orlando metro area for over 12 years. This one-stop shop features everything from incense to catfish. If you’re a fan of ramen, you’ll be in noodle heaven.

If you think I-Drive and the theme parks are the only place to find an escape to foreign land fantasy, visit the “real” Orlando and immerse yourself into the sights, smells and sounds of the Mills/50 District. The memories will last a lifetime.

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