At long last, Danny Nguyen is bringing a Vietnamese restaurant to Old Town Square.
“The first two times didn’t work out,” says Nguyen, the owner of the popular Pho Hot Bistro at 306 N. Rock Road.
He’s opening a new concept where Allegro Cafe – and Caffe Moderne before that – used to be at 306 N. Mead. The business shares a courtyard area with Oeno Wine Bar just off the main square.
“I always want to be in Old Town,” Nguyen says. “I still keep trying it. Finally I got … the deal done.”
Though the restaurant is set back from the square a bit, Nguyen isn’t concerned.
“A lot of people, they just park, and they just walk around,” he says of Old Town visitors.
“People will come and try your food and try your place. It’s just how you’re going to keep them.”
Nguyen’s plan is multifaceted.
He’ll have traditional Vietnamese food, such as pho – a Vietnamese soup – but he’s also going to have a signature steak dish, French cuisine and a raw bar for fresh oysters, clams, shrimp and crawfish in season.
Nguyen says no one is doing a raw bar like what he has planned. For instance, he’s going to offer a dozen oysters for around $12.
“I have the connection for that,” says Nguyen, whose family has a wholesale food distribution business and brings in seafood weekly from Houston.
“A lot of places right now, they sell, like, $3 an oyster,” he says.
Nguyen also plans to sell appetizers on sticks, such as deep-fried calamari and shrimp, for a dollar per stick.
There’s a main part of the restaurant, which also has a bar where the raw bar will be located, and then a room for private events on the other side and an area where Nguyen plans to offer Vietnamese coffee and tea in front of that where Caffe Moderne had a gelato machine.
Nguyen says his plans aren’t finalized.
“We’re still working on it.”
That includes a name, which Nguyen says he hasn’t settled on yet.
The name likely will have an Asian flair to let diners know what he’s offering.
Though he’s not planning a grand opening until March, Nguyen says he hopes to open early in the new year.
“We’re going to definitely hustle on … January.”