Good Girl Dinette, the latest offering from former Blue Hen chef Diep Tran, recently opened in an old brick building on Avenue 56 in Highland Park. The modest interior, with its exposed brick walls, rustic red wooden benches, mustard- and lime-colored chairs and unadorned picture glass front window, is in keeping with the neighborhood's unpretentious vibe but signals a distinct tipping point in the area's future.
At her new restaurant, Tran spoons Vietnamese comfort food into the American diner mold with admirable grace and fluidity of purpose. Good Girl Dinette would be right at home in Silver Lake or Los Feliz, but its existence in Highland Park seems more propitious.
Tran's chicken curry pot pie proves that fusion food is no longer the domain of sleek, pricey restaurants, and that the practice of mixing and matching culturally driven cuisines has trickled down to street level. The pot pie is stuffed with curry, spice and shredded chicken, along with chunks of carrot and potato, and topped with a homemade biscuit. Then there's Grandpa's Porridge, a thick, hearty bowl of brown rice, shredded chicken and Napa cabbage.
Spicy fries sizzle, generously sprinkled with garlic, chili and cilantro; a North Vietnamese take on pho is harmony in a bowl; sandwiches of slow-roasted Niman Ranch pork and roasted oyster mushrooms are served on flaky baguettes with homemade cilantro-Maggi mayonnaise and Vietnamese pickles; and the vegan maple bread pudding tastes like a soft, sugared cloud.
Tran has based all of her seasonal dishes on recipes passed down from her grandparents, who emigrated from Vietnam in 1975, eventually opening up Pho 79, one of Orange County's first Vietnamese restaurants.
"When my grandmother came to the U.S., she started an underground restaurant in her garage in Colorado and called it Quan Que Huong, which means 'Homeland Cafe,' " says the exuberant and friendly Tran, who was born in Vietnam and moved to Cerritos when she was 6.
Eagle Rock's Blue Hen was her first restaurant, but Good Girl Dinette has tapped into Tran's passion for food more than her other endeavors, melding as it does her family's unique history with her desire to feed people simple, healthful fare. "My hunger is more faithful than my memory," she says.
Good Girl Dinette
Where: 110 N. Avenue 56, Highland Park.
When: Open 6 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 6 to 11 p.m. Fridays; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 11 p.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. Sundays.
Price: Pho, $5 to $9; pot pies, $10, sandwiches, $7 to $8.50; rice dishes, $9 to $10.
Contact: (323) 257-8980; www.goodgirldinette.com