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Bright, Genuine and Vietnamese Saigon Bistro 

EXECUTIVE CHEF: Luan Nguyen

AMBIENCE: A bright, inviting decor sets the tone in this family owned and run restaurant. White tile flooring is offset by one deep red wall while tranquil black and white paintings of Vietnam line the walls.

TYPE OF CUISINE: Opened September 1, 2004, "Saigon Bistro primarily wants to offer the customers great, authentic Vietnamese food, and great presentation," owner Sonny Lguyen said. Seafood, soups, salads, rice and rice noodle soup dishes all sound basic, but are prepared "Vietnamese style." The menu is in Vietnamese and translated into English. Vegetarian selections, pineapple fried rice, pork/seafood tapioca noodle soup, and vermicelli are just some of dishes to choose from.

SEATING: The main dining area seats about 85 while the patio seats about 45. Booth seating is available to accommodate smaller parties. The round table seating option is Lguyen's personal favorite -- "these types of tables really help to contribute to the warm atmosphere we're trying to provide." With weather permitting, patio seating is available and divided into two sections. In one section tables are covered by an awning, in the other, tables are umbrella-covered. Three large fountains section off the stone walls around the perimeter of the patio and are fairly loud, but contribute to the overall natural atmosphere.

SOUND LEVEL: Megaphone rating: . (A megaphone rating of 1 is the quietest, like trying to open a bag of chips in the movie theater, and a 4 rating is loudest, like trying to carry on a conversation at RiRa on a Saturday night). Instrumental music is played softly in the background and tables are far enough apart to avoid most cross-conversations. With a reported heavy church crowd on Sundays, brunch may increase noise level. If this becomes the case, sit outside and the fountains will probably drown it out.

WINE LIST: No alcoholic beverages are served at this time. However, there is such a range of traditional Vietnamese drinks that partaking in these may heighten the overall dining experience. Drinks such as the avocado shake, the soybean drink, and the coconut drink are garnished with a flower and range from $1.25 to $2.50.

PRICE RANGE: Appetizers and salads range from $2.50 to $5.95, and soups range from $2.90 to $3.95. The "Chef's Specials" range from $8.95 to $13.95. These include dishes anywhere from fried duck to steamed fish with ginger. Desserts range from $2.50 to fried bananas for $2.75.

BONUS: Lguyen says for anyone who has never tried Vietnamese cuisine, the skewered sliced beef or seafood is the most traditional Vietnamese dish. The meat, vegetables and vermicelli are brought to the table in a pan where the customer can watch it cook then roll the cooked ingredients in a wrap themselves. If anything is not on the menu that a customer would like, the menu states that the Saigon Bistro will accommodate any special requests.

HOURS: Serving lunch and dinner. Tuesday through Thursday, 11am to 9pm, Friday through Saturday, 11am to 10pm and Sunday 11am to 8pm. Closed on Mondays.

RESERVATIONS: Reservations taken.

CREDIT CARDS: All major credit cards accepted. American Express is not yet set up, but will be in the near future.

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Accessible.

Fresh Start is Creative Loafing's bi-weekly snapshot of a newly opened restaurant in the Charlotte area. It is not a review. We wait at least several weeks before giving a recently opened restaurant a full-fledged review; Fresh Start is a way to give readers basic information about area restaurant newbies.

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