Table for Two Restaurant Review

Bo Bo Café a tasty take on Vietnamese cuisine
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal Staff Writer
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If you're looking for a way to kill some time while waiting out Presidents' Day traffic, Auburn's Bo Bo Café isn't the place for you. I invited Chris, my boyfriend, up to Auburn Monday night ” we both live in Sacramento ” to have dinner after I got off work, without factoring in the stress and general steering-wheel-gripping experience of navigating westbound I-80 after a three-day weekend. We attempted to wait out that awful clog of ski-rack-topped vehicles with a calm, quiet, quicker- than-expected dinner at Bo Bo Café. Vietnamese food isn't a staple of my dining-out diet ” sushi and Mexican are top contenders ” but every time I eat it I love it and wonder why I don't opt for it more often. Everything I've tried from a Vietnamese menu has tasted fresh, with flavor combinations that keep my taste buds talking, if not sometimes screaming for water, as chili paste and peppers are easy to come by. In the two years I've worked in Auburn, I'm surprised that I had yet to stop into Bo Bo Café, located on Palm Avenue at Highway 49. It's so close to the highway, but feels tucked away, sitting in a small shopping center next to a dive shop. We walked in shortly before 6 p.m. and were seated immediately in a quaint booth by the door. Water and menus came shortly after we sat down. We giggled about some of the songs playing quietly in the dining room ” I haven't heard All-4-One's I Swear since they were on Beverly Hills, 90210. I think we spent the longest amount of time examining the menu, which features more than 80 appetizer, soup and entrée options. There were many tempting dishes listed, but in the end, our order consisted of: Tom Cuon ($4.20), a cold rice crepe rolled with shrimp, rice noodles, cilantro and sprouts, served with peanut sauce; Ga Xao Xa Ot ($6.95), which is sautéed chicken with lemongrass and hot chili spices, served with rice; and Pho Tai ($5.99), a brothy soup of beef and rice noodles. Our server brought out the shrimp spring rolls almost immediately, which was a pleasant surprise. We've made spring rolls at home before because we like them so much, but leave it up to the pros for the most part. They're fresh instead of fried, contain seafood and come with peanut sauce, so they're practically perfect. Bo Bo's special peanut sauce was pretty good, not too sweet, as some can be, and topped with chopped peanuts for a little crunch. We both ended up adding leftover sauce to our white rice”a love of peanut sauce will make you do crazy things. No sooner did we dive into the spring rolls than the server returned, first with Chris' chicken, which was shortly followed by my pho. The chicken is tasty with a fiery kick, offered Chris, after a couple bites of his order. I'm going to eat the rest of it if you don't hurry up. I'm glad I acted when I did and got some chicken before the plate was clean. The chunks of meat were soft and moist, and the chili added a nice punch to the dish. The white rice served with this dish would cut any fire feared by diners with less tolerance for heat. We didn't really taste the lemongrass mentioned in the menu description, but were quite happy with the Ga Xao Xa Ot nonetheless. My steaming soup was served in a bowl the size of one of the Alice-in-Wonderland teacups at Disneyland. The broth was kinda salty, kinda sweet, with nice, subtle flavor. Thin strips of beef, diced green onion and cilantro sprigs floated on top of a nest of rice noodles resting at the bottom of the bowl. There was no way I was finishing all my pho, given the size of this bowl, but I put a good dent in my portion. In total, I think dinner only took 45 minutes, from seating to paying the bill. This didn't help us buy much time to let the weekend warriors get off the road, but that was the only fault we could find in our meal. I don't think it will be long before I head back to the Bo Bo Café. The Journal's Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at, or comment online at