Dorchester’s Anh Hong, a beloved Vietnamese restaurant in a neighborhood known for its Vietnamese restaurants, closed at the end of 2021 after over 20 years in business, with owners Victoria and Dino Nguyen in charge for the past six years. At the time of closing, they said they hoped to reopen elsewhere in the Fields Corner section of Dorchester, and now it’s going to happen. Anh Hong will live again as part of Pho Hoa, another longtime Fields Corner Vietnamese restaurant, according to Pho Hoa co-owner Tam Le.
An announcement from Le detailing the new partnership — timed auspiciously with the start of the Lunar New Year — describes it as “happenstance” that “two new and unlikely friends,” Le and Victoria Nguyen, met at a Dorchester cafe late last year, shortly before the planned Anh Hong closing date, and the wheels started turning.
Le was already dealing with stress about Pho Hoa on top of the usual pandemic challenges: His father Thanh Le, the Pho Hoa founder, recently turned 70 and had stepped back from day-to-day operations at the restaurant, and the younger Le has his hands full with several other restaurants. “Eroding along with the diminishing presence of [Thanh] Le was that special neighborhood charm, a hallmark of Pho Hoa since opening ... in 1992,” Tam Le wrote in his announcement. Enter Victoria Nguyen and Anh Hong.
Le could see Nguyen’s commitment to Anh Hong and to the community, and the duo realized that joining forces would be in the best interest of both restaurants. They shared common themes, wrote Le, of “creating a special place for the community to enjoy and ensuring that the Vietnamese culture is preserved for future generations.”
And so Nguyen is buying into Pho Hoa, taking over the elder Le’s ownership share; he’ll stay onboard as an advisor, while the younger Le will retain his own share, staying on as an equal partner with Nguyen. Nguyen will also be working as general manager and bringing some Anh Hong specialties with her, including the restaurant’s popular seven-course beef and fish experiences, Vietnamese hot pot, hot and sour catfish soup, caramelized catfish, and more. Le and Nguyen expect to roll out the refreshed menu in mid-February, possibly the 15th, but diners will begin to see familiar faces from the Anh Hong team as early as this week, Le tells Eater.
“Victoria will be bringing not only Anh Hong’s special menu items to Pho Hoa, but also its special charm which made it a neighborhood gem,” wrote Le in the announcement.
The overall restaurant will still be Pho Hoa, Le tells Eater, but Anh Hong will be prominently featured in the menu, with a page dedicated to its aforementioned specialties. The team will also find ways to incorporate Anh Hong’s own branding onto Pho Hoa’s website, signage, chopstick covers, and such. Think of it as one restaurant with multiple specialties, he says, with Pho Hoa continuing to feature pho, other traditional Vietnamese soups, and the broken rice plates for which it has come to be known since opening in 1992, while Anh Hong adds its popular family-style dishes.
Nguyen was approached about reopening in locations such as Somerville and Quincy, she wrote via the announcement, but it was important for her to stay in the neighborhood. “I care so much about my customers and this neighborhood,” she wrote. “I still get their phone calls every day asking when we will come back.”