Trinity Coffee and Food To Go
230 S. 10th St.
Up to $11.50
I have been living in Santa Paula for a couple of months now, passing the curious Trinity Coffee and Food To Go maybe a hundred times so far. It sits on the side of the road, just past the Chevron on the corner, with a painted sign on the window, highlighting the first “t” in Trinity as a Christian cross and a mention of pho.
There is no parking lot for Trinity and there are only a few tables inside with one woman running the whole show. At least, that was the case on a Wednesday night. I could claim she is from Vietnam, but her accent is so thick, casual conversation was difficult at best. She was kind, and what I did get from our conversation is that she will no longer be in charge of the restaurant come July. There will be a new owner and she wasn’t sure if Trinity would continue or something else will come in its place. In July, she said she will join a family member out of the county in opening a new church. That comes as no surprise, as the only audible ambiance in her restaurant was that of a man reading positive-oriented Bible verses on a video of water bubbles that plays on a flat screen hanging in the corner.
There is definitely a mystique around this place. The owner seemed practically grateful for our business, and we were grateful for her home cooking of Vietnamese cuisine. Simplicity seems key: The menu consists of several laminated pictures of phò; plates of teriyaki chicken, shrimp, tofu or beef; báhn xèo (pork and shrimp pancake); báhn mì (sandwich); cha gio (egg rolls) and cha giò (egg rolls). As for our choices: egg rolls, sandwich, chicken and shrimp phò (her recommendation), and the teriyaki beef plate. Given that there was only one person making the food, the wait time made sense.
I ended up with a $37 tab and an enriching, wholesome, nicely packaged meal. It was very apparent that our meals were prepared with downhome personal care. While I ordered egg rolls, what I got appeared to be more like spring rolls, pan fried and browned to a light crisp, stuffed with a pork and shrimp mixture — a comforting combination of flavors and textures. The báhn mì came on a soft roll and had a sort of minced-but-better version of pork and a few large slices of, I think, jalapeños (not included on the list of ingredients), which made my lips burn in a good way.
Splitting the chicken and shrimp phò into two bowls, I feared there might be a shortage of the homemade broth — I traditionally ask for more on the side. But once we ate through the soft, broken, thin rice noodles with bits of shredded chicken and some shrimp, sliced carrots, broccoli and cauliflower — topped with fresh sprouts and mint leaves, plus a little sriracha and hoison — the word “comforting” again came to mind. It reminded me of a time while doing chemo that a friend brought me homemade chicken soup — and what comes from the heart can be so delicious. We had decided we would eat the beef plate the next day . . . but an hour later, that was gobbled up, too. The beef was tender, the fresh vegetables sautéed, the thin egg noodles cooked just right, with just enough teriyaki sauce. We ate her home-cooked meal like champions.
There is one thing that I do know about food reviews, that if what we share resonates, readers will head on over. And so out of due diligence and to wish her well on her next journey, I share a little treasure. But be courteous if she gets busy. She might as well be inviting you into her home to share her skills with the public without any help. I do know I plan on returning before her July moving-on date. There’s not much more to try, but when a meal is good, is there a need for something else?