Food & Drink

Hy Vong restaurant closes in Miami’s Little Havana after 36 years

In a 1994 photograph, Hy Vong’s Tung Nguyen (left), Kathy Manning (center) and Nguyen’s daughter, Phuonglien “Lyn” Nguyen, share a laugh over a plate of Vietnamese food from their restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana.
In a 1994 photograph, Hy Vong’s Tung Nguyen (left), Kathy Manning (center) and Nguyen’s daughter, Phuonglien “Lyn” Nguyen, share a laugh over a plate of Vietnamese food from their restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana. Miami Herald file

Landmark Vietnamese restaurant Hy Vong closed Oct. 30, 36 years after serving its first bowls of pho and plates of lemongrass chicken on Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.

Owner Kathy Manning said that she hoped to reopen the restaurant elsewhere by year’s end.

“I still have the drive in me,” said Manning, one of the Miami Herald’s 2015 South Florida Food 50 honorees. “Our landlord wants the space after 36 years, and I’m looking at several options for other spaces.

“I don’t know what will happen for sure, because opening a restaurant is expensive,” Manning continued. “But we have built a community here, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to that yet. We have customers who have been coming here since the bathrooms were outside.”

Hy Vong, Vietnamese for hope, opened in 1980 at 3458 SW Eighth St., but its story begins five years before that.

In 1975, Manning brought Vietnamese refugee Tung Nguyen into her Coral Gables home. Nguyen, who was pregnant and widowed, had a knack for cooking the dishes of her war-torn homeland.

She and Manning, a former math teacher, opened Hy Vong as a way to support Nguyen’s daughter’s education (Lyn Nguyen went on to graduate from Harvard and Cornell). Years later, they were still at it, with Nguyen running the kitchen and Manning handling guests in the snug, always-full dining room.

Evan S. Benn is Miami Herald food editor: 305-376-4624, @EvanBenn

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