The passage of the American Immigration Act of 1965 opened the door to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Asia and Latin America, shifting the ethnic make up of the United States. Many of the new immigrants from Asia and the Pacific Rim who settled in Southern California choose to take up residence in the vast San Gabriel Valley rather than in the decaying core of Los Angeles' historic Chinatown. This afforded many an opportunity to own a home, start a business and claim the American dream as their own.
A young Diep Tran and her family found themselves in the suburbs of Los Angeles when they arrived from Vietnam in 1978. Two years later, her aunt and uncle began one of the first Vietnamese restaurants in Los Angeles: Pho 79, now a chain with locations in Alhambra and Orange County. Growing up around her family's kitchen in the San Gabriel Valley presented Tran with two distinct culinary worlds, one inhabited by her family and one that was part of a more informal American diner culture.
Diep Tran is now the chef and owner of a restaurant that reflects the sort of culinary hybridity that you'd expect to find in the polyglot tapestry of Southern California: the Good Girl Dinette, an American diner serving chicken curry pot pie with buttermilk biscuit crust, grandpa's porridge (that cures all ailments!) and grandma's Pho.
The eclecticism of Tran's menu is a reflection of a new generation of down-to-earth chefs now coming of age in America, this after having grown up with chile, bahn mi and grits on their plates.
Above, owner of local-minded restaurant Good Girl Dinette Diep Tran discusses Highland Park's DIY and urban homesteading sensibility, slow food culture in the neighborhood, and her diner's ties to the community.