A (somewhat) recent Diners Journal reader wrote in to the column to say: "Our 25-year romance with our favorite subterranean Vietnamese restaurant ended when it unceremoniously closed on Doyers Street in Chinatown." Sam Sifton replied, "Joan Didion had this right about death and grief: the absence brought about by it is unending. This is as true of the loss of restaurants as it is of the loss of friends, of loved ones."
The closure of Doyers Vietnamese isn't news, it closed a year ago, but it did happen suddenly and unceremoniously, as often happens with these little, yet beloved places--and it also heralds more big changes for Doyers Street.
What is going into the spot today is a Mexican restaurant called Pulqueria by the same management as newish and controversial neighbor Apotheke. Guest of a Guest wrote, "Pulqueria might seem like an affront on the area's innumerable dumpling holes-in-the-wall and noodle shops..."
I wrote about the history of Doyers Street and the movement to erase Chinatown back when Apotheke first opened. At that time, Grub Street said that Doyers "will soon become the Freemans Alley of Chinatown." (That alley used to be just that, a dead end with nothing in it. Now it's a crowded center of downtown "chic.")
The Freemanizing of Doyers is happening, step by step. The wonderful preservation of Nom Wah gives us hope, but I suspect the day will come when that is all that's left here of Chinatown, and we won't be surprised to find its red-checked tables mobbed by the in-crowd.
Former site of Doyers Vietnamese, 1890, NYPL