Sidelined by COVID-19 Before Debut, ‘Saigon Social’ Now Serves Meals to First Responders

Posted on: April 21st, 2020 at 5:01 am by

Saigon Social was oh-so-close to finally opening its first brick-and-mortar on Orchard Street. Then COVID-19 hit, and another setback befell the restaurant.

Rather than accept defeat before even launching (i.e. takeout only), ownership pivoted to help serve first responders. Former presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, tweeted last week about how owner Helen Nguyen quickly pivoted. Cooking and delivering food to hospitals instead of hungry Lower East Side diners.

The business outlook was bleak a month ago, though.

“We have been working hard for the last year to get Saigon Social up and running and have been devastated by setback after setback, most recently with the NYC mandate to only provide takeout or delivery due to the Coronavirus,” Nguyen posted on Instagram last month.

She took it further in a post on Grub St:

I was really devastated obviously, because — from fighting with the city to the whole 11 months fighting tooth and nail with Con Eidson — just getting this restaurant up and running was difficult. Then it was like, oh, finally we went through that really, really big hurdle, the landlord has been really supportive, and it was finally coming to life. But I sat there and realized I’ve never experienced anything like this. I talked to a lot of people in the industry who said the same thing, who said to maybe open and limit hours. But I had an inkling that this might get a lot worse. I decided the best thing to do was to hold back.

I’ve been very fortunate to have a landlord who has been supportive — I know that’s very rare in New York City. They told me they wouldn’t charge me rent until the gas is on.

It’s been a long time coming for Saigon Social, which had previously hosted culinary pop-ups at various locations, including Boys Don’t Cry at 22 Orchard.

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