Downtown Ypsilanti's iconic Dalat restaurant has seemed on the brink of closure multiple times in recent years. However, a new generation is now taking over the business and making the unusual move of relocating it from Ypsi to Ann Arbor.
Once legal paperwork is finalized, Son Le, the son of previous owners Lang Bui and Hoanh Le, will be the Vietnamese restaurant's new manager, and his wife, Tran Nguyen, will serve as the new owner. The pair are aiming for an early June opening at a space in the Woodland Plaza shopping center off South Main Street in Ann Arbor.
Original owner Lang Bui opened Dalat at 421 Cross St. in Ypsi, but the restaurant proved so popular that she moved to a larger location at the corner of Michigan Avenue and North Huron Street in 2000.
In 2010, Bui was speaking publicly about the demands of the restaurant and looking forward to passing the restaurant into other hands when she retired. In December 2014, Bui put the building up for sale so she could retire, but said at that time that the next generation in the family-run business had no interest in taking over operations.
However, the restaurant seemed to be doing business as usual through the end of 2017, until an announcement appeared on the restaurant's Facebook page Jan. 4 noting that it was moving to Ann Arbor, with a reopening date unspecified.
Son Le says having a building in an older historic district was difficult and prompted the move. He says most property owners have difficulty understanding construction codes for maintenance and renovations.
"We just don't have enough energy or funds to keep the building in good shape," he says.
Le says his parents retired Nov. 23 and took a trip to southeast Asia, coming back to sign the sales agreement. It took the previous owners much longer than expected to sell the old property at 100 W. Michigan Ave., he says, and the deal wasn't finalized until Jan. 19.
Le says he is hoping to open the restaurant in early June, but the timing will depend on how quickly he and Nguyen can get all the necessary city and county permits.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Patrick Dunn.