Thursday, March 10, 2011

Doyers Vietnamese

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

See Also:
Doyers Street
Chinatown Tunnels

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

This dumpy little restaurant was my boyfriend and my special place. Always enough delicious food for the next day's lunch. I am so grateful Nom Wah is continuing but so depressed that the Doyers Street of my childhood is going away.

Bowery Boogie said...

blood-boiling news.

kim said...

That is such a nostalgic street. Back in the days when people still 'rent videos', there's a Chinese video store that I always hit up for my weekend treat. Mom and I would stay up till 2am to watch tape after tape of drama series. Now with all the bootlegs and free downloads on the Internet, basically and the rental stores are extinct.

robert said...

This is a stab in the heart for me.
It is truly irreplaceable.
A favorite place since it was called Vietnam in the 1980's.
Dark subterranean with Vietnamese
pop music playing in the background, amazing food at great
prices.Almost too many memories to
handle; it's now a hungry ghost
haunting my memories.

Anonymous said...

NO! I thought it was temporary, that's what someone told us. I have been on the road for 9 months and we went to eat there right before we left the city. I couldn't believe it was closed then, and I thought it was odd. This is crushing. I loved that place. I always went for the soft shell crab with the pepper sauce, so delicious. They also had a prerecorded birthday song that was pretty bananas as well. That club that opened next door was the death knell. RIP DOYERS.

TyN said...

I live in the area, and have a feeling Chinatown will be around for a very long time. Even with Apotheke, Pulqueira, White Star, and the soon-to-be Le Baron, it's a huge neighborhood that is primarily sold/rented to more Chinese shop owners. There have been a lot of stores and restaurants that I see close, and they open back up as another Chinese (sometimes Vietnamese) restaurant, Dollar store, hair salon, tea parlor, or grocery store.

I live less than a block from Apotheke and still have not gone.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I had our wedding reception at Doyers Vietnamese. Dinner for 80 people –– including beer, tea, soft drinks, and tip –– was $1,900.

Marty Wombacher said...

@TyN: Do yourself a favor and stay away from Apotheke. I wandered in there one night and the place and everybody in there gave me the creeps. Over-priced drinks, pretentious people and bartenders and flames on the bar. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

i dont see that street mobbed by the in crowd for a long time.

JakeGould said...

TyN said it right. Jeremiah, I generally agree and appreciate your research and opinions. But in this case, it is laughably hyperbolic for you to portend the disappearance of Chinatown based on these two small restaurants changing hands. Chinatown is a huge and very vibrant neighborhood filled with young and old and is one of the few ethnic neighborhoods in NYC that is alive and kicking.

Across the street in Little Italy, it’s a different story. That place is dying and very close to death. And you really cannot blame “yuppies” for that change. If you have a vibrant and lively neighborhood, it won’t change too much. Chinatown is a great example. When you have people fleeing the neighborhood and all that is left are souvenir stands and crappy tourist restaurants, the place is dead as a doornail.

You should spend some more time lamenting Harlem. What Columbia is doing there is obnoxious. Happily people are fighting back, but I don’t see much coverage of that gentrification on this blog.

Get some perspective, please.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Jake, the disappearance of Chinatown will happen due to city planning, zoning issues, to the many glass towers moving in, to the High Line that the city wants to run down its spine, and not by two trendy places alone.

but, yes, small changes can have huge effects. a butterfly is flapping its wings on Doyers Street.

TyN said...

You know that mini park "High Line" will be filled with Chinese opera singers and mandolin musicians just like Columbus Park. You can't ignore the fact that Chinatown is still predominantly Chinese. Hopefully the city will do something to help the vehicle traffic in that area, because walking or riding a bike by there is a bitch.

Anonymous said...

i live on the street, have for years.
wasn't happy with the hip cool bar next door, when it opened its doors to the hip trend setting...wanabes
i got use to the whore house, disco, and gambling.
i know neighborhoods change, and it has been a cool street for long time, but now crowds till dawn, bottles on the stoop, load. its tragic

Jeremiah Moss said...

Anon Doyers resident, will you email me? i'd like to know more.

jeremoss@yahoo