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RIP, Saigon Cafe

The best Vietnamese restaurant in the City of Duluth is gone. (Thank goodness we still have Lan Chi’s in Superior.)

This makes me think three things:
1. How sad I am to see our choices for good food diminished.
2. How sad I am to see out choices for good community diminished; Saigon Cafe was more than just a place to pick up takeout.
3. How much I wish there was a place for businesses I love to post: “We’re cash-strapped right now. If you could order just a little more food, a little more often, you’d get us over the hump.”

If anyone can tell me that the owners are out there, happy and healthy and maybe cooking somewhere else, I’d love to hear it.

30 Comments

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

Don't forget the other Vietnamese joints in town: Taste of Saigon in the Dewitt-Seitz Marketplace in Canal Park, and the Vietnamese Lotus Inn, 1314 Commonwealth Ave., in Duluth's Gary neighborhood.

Iron Oregon

about 3 years ago

Taste of Saigon in Dewitz-Seitz isn't the least bit Vietnamese. I alert my Vietnamese friends in the Twin Cities to avoid it as so many have been sorely disappointed in the place. It's got decent Chinese food though. We need a good Viet place in a good location.

rhetoricguy@gmail.com

about 3 years ago

Paul, to be honest, I thought Gary/New Duluth were not in Duluth proper. It's such a long bus ride, it feels to me like almost Cloquet. The Lotus Inn is perhaps the best Vietnamese in the Northland, although with tablecloths and prices to match. It's date-night Vietnamese, and worth every penny. Lan Chi is, dollar for dollar, the best, and they let my mother-in-law order off-menu some traditional Vietnamese awesomeness. Taste of Saigon was not quite as accommodating; as a result, my mother in law pronounced it American Chinese. Maybe we were just there on an off night.

rhetoricguy@gmail.com

about 3 years ago

PS: Saigon Cafe even had a tasty food cart at festivals. They were awesome through and through.

Barrett Chase

about 3 years ago

According to Google Maps, it takes 15 minutes to drive to the Lotus Inn from Lake Avenue & Superior Street. It takes 38 minutes on the bus. When talking to your friends in the Twin Cities, be sure to mention these distances. I'm sure they will commiserate with you, and agree that this is an unreasonable amount of time to travel.

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

Yeah, Lotus Inn is out west a ways, but it's less than five miles from my house, so for me it's closer than Saigon Cafe, Taste of Saigon or Lan Chi's. (And hey, Lan Chi's is actually not in Duluth proper.) But Rhetoric Guy's points are all still good. For many people the Lotus Inn is a bit out of range and pricier than the others, and yeah, Taste of Saigon is more Chinese than Vietnamese, despite having "Saigon" in it's name.

rhetoricguy@gmail.com

about 3 years ago

Barrett, with all due respect, I'm uninterested in arguing whether it's a reasonable distance to drive compared to the Cities. (Though it would also be fair to note that a 38 minute bus ride from St. Paul or Minneapolis downtown would more often than not put you in one of the suburbs one in the other Twin City from where you started. It is a hike.) The hour it took me on the bus to get from UMD to Gary/New Duluth made me think that perhaps I was outside city limits. I was wrong. Apologies to Lotus Inn and to Gary. It's certainly not too far to go for a good meal, and it is a very, very good meal.

Barrett Chase

about 3 years ago

Sorry, I'm not arguing. I just like to tease Duluthians about their skewed perception of distance. A lot of people here actually do think a 10 or 15-minute drive is unreasonable. I rode the bus for years and understand how it can take a very long time to get somewhere, especially if you have to transfer.

rhetoricguy@gmail.com

about 3 years ago

I wish PDD had a "like" button, Barrett.

Hansi Johnson

about 3 years ago

Lotus rocks! Best Pho in the city for sure and great folks besides. Last time I was there I saw that there is also a new Bridgemans just down the street....

eolson

about 3 years ago

There is no good Pho in Duluth. Period. Saigon Cafe was the best. Lotus Pho broth is mediocre on a good day. Pho shouldn't cost $10.00 plus and be served with cilantro. Every winter I long for really good Pho in Duluth. In the summer I want a really good Vietnamese sandwich. If I had one thing I would change about Duluth, it's the addition of a true Vietnamese restaurant. If I wasn't of Scandinavian descent and a "soft skills" undergraduate, I would seriously look into opening a Pho restaurant in Duluth. I would be soooo grateful if anyone did.

edgeways

about 3 years ago

Sala Thai. I can't comment on if it is "real" or "the best" or "good" compared to XYZ place, but I like it.

edgeways

about 3 years ago

I am pretty sure PDD gets trawled for local news stories quite a bit.

dlhmn

about 3 years ago

I am pretty sure PDD posters "trawl" the DNT for discussion topics way more often than the other way around. I'm glad the DNT did a story, because no one here - original poster or commenters - provided any information about when the restaurant closed, why it closed, and what the owners are doing.

zra

about 3 years ago

Oh, dlh ... you're so silly.

zra

about 3 years ago

It could possibly be that nobody here knows why or when, dlh. Commentary was started lamentations and comparisons were made. Almost every comment thread, if you've been reading PDD since ... forever ... turns into a discussion thread. Posting an opinion admonishing people for posting their opinion is ... asinine.

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

What's so silly about dlhmn being 100 percent correct? I feel like I've made this comment 30 times before, but here it comes again: It's nice that people like to pat PDD on the back, and I'll be the first to say this website plays an important role in disseminating information in this community, but any notion that the daily newspaper chases PDD's tail is, well ... so silly. Yes, PDD will often have certain information first. Yes, people in the local media follow PDD and are moved to cover stories they find out about on this website. But as dlhmn aptly points out, the discussions on PDD are frequently based on detailed news articles produced by professional reporters at the Duluth News Tribune, while occasionally a detailed DNT story is born from loose pieces of information slapped together by random community members on PDD. What happens on PDD is impressive, but it's not something that compares well with other media. It's a different animal. And it might be a better animal if it focuses more on Vietnamese restaurants and less on media criticism in this particular thread. So I'll shut up now.

zra

about 3 years ago

PDD isn't meant to be a news aggregate, right? So someone posts a topic lamenting the loss of good Pho. It's current events. I'm sure the originator of the post could have included info on whys and whens as to the loss of his Pho, but he's not a reporter ... which goes back to the original point, why should PDD be a news aggregate? That's what the DNT is for. Perhaps my point was missed ... maybe I'm just crabby because Walter drank the rest of my coffee.

rhetoricguy@gmail.com

about 3 years ago

Absolutely. I commented on the DNT story because I thought it was unusual, not because I thought it was the future of reporting. We need the DNT in this town. What I'd really like to know is an answer to my third question: I wish there were a way to know when my fave businesses were hurting so I could help. I get that there are reasons to avoid telling your customers you are in a death spiral. But I would have eaten at Saigon Cafe every week if it would have helped, if I had known they needed that help.

Claire

about 3 years ago

Good question, Rhetoric Guy. It's too bad little mom-and-pop restaurants don't tell their customers when they need a little cash infusion to keep going. Independent bookstores are good about doing that, and sometimes, it's made the difference between staying open and shutting down. A Room of One's Own in Madison put it out there for their customers and their sales spiked last winter, usually a slow time for them.

Swan

about 3 years ago

I like Vietnamese food but hate listening to people talk about it.

c-freak

about 3 years ago

I have a Vietnamese friend.

Hollie

about 3 years ago

The Lotus Inn is for sale, according to the most recent Real Estate Viewer magazine that I picked up the other day. If you do an internet search for their address (1314 Commonwealth Ave.) you can find the real estate listing. Does anyone know if they are just moving the restaurant or if they are planning on closing once the building sells?

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

The Lotus Inn building and restaurant are owned by Steve Allen and his wife, Cuc. I asked Steve about a year ago if he would close the restaurant if he sold the building and he said he wasn't sure.

carla

about 3 years ago

eolsen, the former Hacienda del Sol is ripe for conversion.

Claire

about 3 years ago

I wish the Lotus would move downtown!

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

Giant Panda is hiring.

yeahno

about 3 years ago

Saying Lotus Inn is the best Vietnamese in the northland is like saying you won the dyslexic spelling bee.

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