99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Sapp Coffee Shop

photo by Danny Liao

Tucked between a sweets shop and a video store in a small plaza is Sapp Coffee Shop, perhaps the coziest restaurant in Thai Town, a place where you feel like you’ve walked into someone’s kitchen. It’s not uncommon to pop by after a lunch rush and see a few folks from the kitchen sitting around a table, peeling vegetables, apron and gossip on. This may have been one of the first places where you had boat noodles, a dark, rich, deeply funky bowl of beef soup made richer still with cubes of blood, all sorts of offal and the tang of lime. While boat noodles are now about as common in Thai Town as pho is in the San Gabriel Valley, Sapp remains, to this day, one of the best — and certainly the homiest — place for the dish. The restaurant also serves terrific dry green “jade” noodles with duck, pork, crabmeat, crushed peanuts and lime; sen chan pad pu, stir-fried noodles laced with chili garlic and crab; and, perhaps the comfiest food of all, fried rice. Welcome home.

-- Tien Nguyen