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Food & Drink

This 40-year-old, Aaron Peskin-approved Vietnamese restaurant reopens near San Francisco’s Chinatown

Supervisor Aaron Peskin eats curry lamb noodle soup at the new Sai’s Restaurant in San Francisco on Tuesday. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

A 40-year fixture in Downtown San Francisco has reopened two blocks away from its original site after a dispute with the landlord in early 2022 nearly drove it out of business.

Sai’s Restaurant, previously Sai’s Vietnamese Restaurant (西氏越南餐館) down the block from the Transamerica Pyramid, has moved to 42 Columbus Ave., near the border of North Beach and Chinatown.

“We’re excited,” Charles Vong, the restaurant’s second-generation owner, told The Standard on Tuesday. “We’ve been here for 41 years now, so everyone has their favorites.”

Vong, 41, said that his aunt and uncle, both immigrants from Vietnam, founded the restaurant in 1982. After four decades of operation, the restaurant received a notice from the landlord, the real estate company Shvo, that it had to move out once the lease expired. In 2020, Shvo purchased the Transamerica Pyramid and the adjacent property that housed Sai’s for some $650 million, intending to redevelop it.

After the news broke, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represented the area, intervened by designating Sai’s as a legacy business and negotiating with Shvo to help find a new location. Shvo then opted to provide Sai’s with financial support, allowing the well-known restaurant to remain in its original location until last week.

Sai’s Restaurant opened in a new location on the border of North Beach and Chinatown in San Francisco this week. | Source: Han Li/The Standard

Vong said that Sai’s previous customers were largely office workers looking for lunch, but he’s hoping to diversify that base, as Downtown’s recovery continues to be slow. Formerly a tapas restaurant, the new location of Sai’s has a bar, and Vong told The Standard that he will now be able to offer specialty cocktails and soju. 

During Tuesday’s lunch hour, its second day in business, Sai’s was packed. Peskin, who dropped by for a bowl of noodle soup, also issued a proclamation to commemorate the grand reopening.

Asked what to order, Vong recommended beef pho, a banh mi sandwich, pork imperial rolls and the vermicelli bowl. But he has his own favorite.

“For me, personally,” Vong said, “the curry lamb stew is awesome.”