Dining With Denise Neil

Well-known Wichita restaurateur hanging up his apron citing health problems

Restaurants Wichita lost in 2018

Beloved Wichita restaurants that closed their doors in 2018.
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Beloved Wichita restaurants that closed their doors in 2018.

Danny Nguyen has been a well-known restaurant owner and innovator of Vietnamese food in Wichita since he opened his first Pho Hot restaurant on East Pawnee 13 years ago.

But now, Nguyen has ended his restaurant career in Wichita. He closed his 3-year-old Lemongrass: Taste of Vietnam restaurant at 300 N. Mead Old Town Square last week, and he’s moving out of state.

A new owner will be taking the restaurant over and will keep the name but will have his own menu, Nguyen said. I’m working on reaching the new owner and will fill in more details when I do. A sign posted on the door says the restaurant will reopen at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

Nguyen said he had to close Lemongrass because he’s having some health problems and so is his father, who lives in Oklahoma. He can no longer be on his feet in a hot kitchen, he said, and he needs to go care for his father.

Well known Wichita restaurateur Danny Nguyen has closed his Lemongrass restaurant and is moving out of state. He’s been cooking in Wichita since 2006. File photo The Wichita Eagle

He sold the restaurant to a new owner, but he did not sell his recipes, he said.

Nguyen opened his first Pho Hot restaurant at 2409 E. Pawnee in 2006 and quickly earned a following. He relocated the business to the former Amarillo Grill building at 306 N. Rock Road in 2010 and operated there until moving to Old Town Square to open Lemongrass in 2016.

The personable Nguyen was known for his more upscale Vietnamese cuisine and for his love of crawfish, which was frequently on the menu. Last year, movie star Harrison Ford dined at the restaurant two nights in a row during his annual visit to town for flight training.

Nguyen said he will miss Wichita and especially his loyal customers.

“I just want to say thank you to all of my guests and customers,” he said. “They have supported me all the way from Pho Hot to Lemongrass.”

Denise Neil has covered restaurants and entertainment since 1997. Her Dining with Denise Facebook page is the go-to place for diners to get information about local restaurants. She’s a regular judge at local food competitions and speaks to groups all over Wichita about dining.