The reputation of Golden Deli, the San Gabriel Valley's most famous house of Vietnamese pho and banh hoi, is such that a trip there feels like an important cultural undertaking. If you come at dinnertime, be prepared to stand around in the parking lot for 20 minutes or more. Once you make it inside, you'll understand why it's worth the wait. Just $5.25 gets you a big steaming bowl of deliciously seasoned broth with noodles and thin, cooked beef that's somehow far better than the lesser, more expensive versions served at Vietnamese restaurants around town. Purists will opt for the soups with beef tendon and tripe, but there's no shame in leaving out the entrails' connective tissues. If it's too hot for soup, go for one of the banh hoi dishes: cold vermicelli noodles topped with chives and your choice of beef, pork or egg rolls. When you leave you aren't just full and happy, you feel like you've completed an exercise in self-improvement. 815 W. Las Tunas Drive, San Gabriel. (626) 308-0803.

—Nicolas Taborek

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