Lower State Street already plays host to a seemingly limitless array of restaurant choices from various corners of the globe. Saigon In and Out now aims to satisfy Santa Barbara’s fierce hunger for Vietnamese spring rolls, soups, noodle dishes, and mounds of delicious greens with the opening of a new location at 424 State Street on July 9. The only-in-Santa Barbara chain is one of the few businesses in the area that has managed not only to survive the recession, but to thrive during these hard times.
The owner of the growing restaurant chain is Vietnamese-born William Lam, who moved with his family to the United States in 1982. Lam got his start in the restaurant business at a young age, working with his mother in Vietnam, where he developed a favorable taste for the industry. “I started working with her after school whenever I could,” Lam said. “She still lives with me now, believe it or not.” From these humble beginnings Lam came to the United States and eventually opened his first Saigon In and Out on Milpas Street about five years ago, and he has had an eye for expansion ever since. Only three years after the opening of the first Saigon In and Out, Lam opened a second location on upper State Street. Both locations have done very well, enjoying an almost religiously dedicated customer base. “Some people come in as many as five nights a week,” Lam said. “At the other locations its mostly local people, but here (Lower State) we will probably see a lot more young people and tourists.”
With the current recession having grim effects on many local businesses, Saigon In and Out’s conquest of the Santa Barbara area appears to be a bit out of place. Lam believes that even with the recession, people still want to be able to enjoy fresh Vietnamese cuisine, and he insists that Saigon In and Out has the freshest. “I believe that the quality of the food and service is how you earn the support of the Santa Barbara people,” Lam said. “Without their support, there is nothing you can do.” It is true that the people of Santa Barbara have shown much enthusiasm for the Vietnamese chain, judging by the fact that its first two locations regularly fill up with patrons during lunch and dinner hours.
Lam attributes the steady influx of customers in part to the sheer number of choices offered, on a goliath of a menu that carries nearly 100 different items that have been added over the years. Even Lam’s dedicated five-night-a-week patrons could spend quite some time exploring the menu before ever having the same entree twice. The savory selections range from traditional Vietnamese spring rolls and pho to excitingly unique hot-pot and noodle dishes whose names evade all hope of correct pronunciation. There isn’t a dud to be found, Lam insists, and patrons have responded very well to the menu expansions. The only remaining question is: When will Saigon In and Out be satisfied with its takeover of Santa Barbara? Apparently not anytime soon, as construction is already underway on a fourth location in the Five Points Shopping Center, and the opening is slated for this September.