40-year-old Vietnam Restaurant in Philly’s Chinatown wins James Beard Award

40-year-old Vietnam Restaurant in Philly’s Chinatown wins James Beard Award40-year-old Vietnam Restaurant in Philly’s Chinatown wins James Beard Award
via @eatatvietnam / Instagram
Vietnam Restaurant, a beloved restaurant in Philadelphia’s Chinatown, will receive a James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classics Award this year.
Breaking the news: Vietnam Restaurant, which won in the Mid-Atlantic region category, is among six recipients of the award from different regions. The awarding ceremony will be held at the Lyric Opera of Chicago on June 10.
About the restaurant: Founders Thuyen Luu and Nhu Lai opened Vietnam Restaurant in 1984, five years after they immigrated from Vietnam to the U.S. to flee communist Chinese rule with only $30 in their pockets. Before becoming restaurateurs, the couple opened a grocery, Fu-Wah, using their savings and gifts.
With extensive knowledge from cooking for her husband and eight children, Thuyen Luu served as the restaurant’s original chef. Benny Lai, one of the couple’s children, took over the business after his parents retired in 1989. His father, Nhu Lai, died 11 years ago.
About the award: Touted as one of the United States’ most prestigious culinary honors, the James Beard Awards, established in 1990, recognizes and honors exceptional talent, leaders and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality and media. This year’s America’s Classics awardees will join more than 100 restaurants that have received the title since its introduction in 1998.
What the foundation is saying:  In its announcement, the James Beard Foundation described Vietnam Restaurant as “one of Philly’s favorite date-night destinations for classic Vietnamese cuisine.” The nonprofit also acknowledged the Lai family as among the “first wave of Vietnamese refugees who came to Philadelphia to build a life on hard work and entrepreneurship.”
Expansion: Vietnam Restaurant is located at North 11th Street in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. Following the success of their business, Lai opened Vietnam Cafe in West Philadelphia, which has also become a local favorite.
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