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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 Comment(s)

  1. 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.

    Paul Lundgren | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  2. 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.

    Iron Oregon | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  3. 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 | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  4. PS: Saigon Cafe even had a tasty food cart at festivals. They were awesome through and through.

    rhetoricguy@gmail.com | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  5. 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.

    Barrett Chase | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  6. 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.

    Paul Lundgren | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  7. 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.

    rhetoricguy@gmail.com | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  8. 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.

    Barrett Chase | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  9. I wish PDD had a “like” button, Barrett.

    rhetoricguy@gmail.com | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  10. 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….

    Hansi Johnson | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  11. 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.

    eolson | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  12. 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 | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  13. PDD shapes traditional media:
    Downtown Duluth restaurant closes

    rhetoricguy@gmail.com | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  14. I am pretty sure PDD gets trawled for local news stories quite a bit.

    edgeways | Nov 7, 2011 | New Comment
  15. 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.

    dlhmn | Nov 8, 2011 | New Comment
  16. Oh, dlh … you’re so silly.

    zra | Nov 8, 2011 | New Comment
  17. 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.

    zra | Nov 8, 2011 | New Comment
  18. 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.

    Paul Lundgren | Nov 8, 2011 | New Comment
  19. 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.

    zra | Nov 8, 2011 | New Comment
  20. 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.

    rhetoricguy@gmail.com | Nov 8, 2011 | New Comment
  21. 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.

    Claire | Nov 8, 2011 | New Comment
  22. I like Vietnamese food but hate listening to people talk about it.

    Swan | Nov 8, 2011 | New Comment
  23. I have a Vietnamese friend.

    c-freak | Nov 8, 2011 | New Comment
  24. 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?

    Hollie | Nov 11, 2011 | New Comment
  25. 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.

    Paul Lundgren | Nov 11, 2011 | New Comment
  26. eolsen, the former Hacienda del Sol is ripe for conversion.

    carla | Nov 11, 2011 | New Comment
  27. I wish the Lotus would move downtown!

    Claire | Nov 11, 2011 | New Comment
  28. Giant Panda is hiring.

    Paul Lundgren | Nov 11, 2011 | New Comment
  29. Ha! Swan.

    -Berv | Nov 11, 2011 | New Comment
  30. Saying Lotus Inn is the best Vietnamese in the northland is like saying you won the dyslexic spelling bee.

    yeahno | Nov 13, 2011 | New Comment

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