Vietnamese immigrant brings traditional food restaurant to Ann Arbor


Courtesy of Son Le

Dalat restaurant is located in Woodland Plaza on 2216 South Main St, Ann Arbor.

Kaitlyn Sabb, Feature Editor

Hoping to immerse their new community in their Vietnamese culture, awareness and food they opened up their first restaurant in an old pizza joint. Even though not everything has been spectacular in the approximately 30 years Son Le and his parents have been open, they have never experienced discrimination due to their race much like other restaurants in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area. 

Through misinformation and racism in many parts of the world, Asian culture, food and businesses have been impacted by the spread of COVID-19. However, Ann Arbor is lucky to have limited instances of boycotting Asian restaurants solely due to their ethnic cuisine. 

“Everybody suffered during the pandemic,” Le said. “But prior to that, we had very good business.” 

Restaurants in the Ann Arbor area have commented on the limited racism experienced in the Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor area which is quite the contrary to Asian restaurants located in Los Angeles’, San Francisco’s and other cities’ Chinatowns. Many restaurant owners have commented that the streets of Chinatown and their businesses are empty. 

“We have no problem with the customers,” co-owner of Dalat Vietnamese, Son Le, said. “We like to get along with everyone, so all of our customers can be happy. We don’t have any complaints about racism.”

After founding his restaurant along with his parents on April 5, 1990, Le said he has experienced no racism in the Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor community. Le’s first store location near Eastern Michigan University Central Campus on Cross Street was an old pizza parlor that he passed and decided to restore after encouragement from friends and family. 

“I used to work there at the Graduate Library, so there’s a diversity there,” Le said. “We used to have lots of small parties where different people from different countries brought their food in there. I offered for them to try out food and they liked it. So, I wanted to introduce more of my recipes to the public.”

Not only does Le and his family like to share their original cooking style with the community, they also never shy away from letting more people know about their culture and experiences as political refugees from Vietnam. 

“We came to the country in the early 1980s right after the war and we did not see any Vietnamese restaurants, or any place around Ypsilanti or Ann Arbor that offered Vietnamese food,” Le said. 

Now, running a successful business, Dalat Vietnamese has many different options to choose from. Their extensive menu has vegan, vegetarian options as well as some for meat-lovers. Each of the meals are named with their traditional name, so you can definitely tell this place is serving out true Vietnamese food. Upon trying their food I got the Cơm chiên chay which consisted of broccoli, carrots, snow peas, fried tofu, seitan (mock-duck) and a veggie egg roll. The fried tofu and mock-duck was something I had never had before, but proved to amaze me in a stir-fry with other delicious ingredients.