Banh mi

Provided

Nail salons are conversation hubs, so it’s no surprise that Dana Vo has heard plenty of talk about the unmet demand for Vietnamese food in downtown Charleston.

“There are a couple of restaurants, but it’s not (like) the original,” says Vo, who’s worked as a manicurist since moving to South Carolina more than 20 years ago.

Vo and her partner, Tran Pham, hope to make that complaint passé with the opening of Ha Long Café at 281 Meeting St. Vo is aiming to open the bubble tea shop and deli by mid-May.

An opening menu for Ha Long lists a selection of banh mis, teriyaki bowls and vermicelli noodles in addition to Vietnamese coffee and fresh juices. The bubble tea component of the business is a franchise of Ding Tea, a Taiwan-based brand with dozens of locations worldwide, but Vo stresses that “the food is homemade” at Ha Long.

The café’s name was chosen by Pham’s children, American-born College of Charleston students who were struck by the beauty and cuisine of the coastal region when they traveled to Vietnam (Vo hails from the country’s interior.) They’ll work at Ha Long as managers, but on a part-time basis because of their studies.

By contrast, Vo plans to give up her nail salon job to focus on the restaurant. “For a change,” she says.

For more information, visit facebook.com/dingtea.charleston.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

Food editor and chief critic

Eating all of the chicken livers just as fast as I can.

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