Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

Hong Kong Cafe packs up, new bar on tap

The Hong Kong Café, a popular South University Boulevard dining spot for 14 years, closed its doors June 4 with a large helping of gratitude to the DU community and a side order of regret.

“It’s very sad; it’s hard to leave,” says Lyn Diep while helping her husband, Vincent, pack belongings into their white Honda SUV and prepare to leave the business they ran at the southwest corner of Wesley Avenue near the Newman Center.

“Many of our customers became friends,” she adds, “and we will miss them very much. Former Chancellor Dan Ritchie visited us often, as well as Chancellor Emeritus Dwight Smith.”

But now it’s time for a change.

“We ran the restaurant for 14 years without a break,” Vincent Diep says. “We need to relax.”

The restaurateurs says they were eager to turn their lease over to new tenants, who plan a neighborhood bar and restaurant called The Pioneer.

The couple also wants to spend time with their children, Amanda, 17, and Oscar, 13. In particular they hope to take the children to Vietnam so they can see the couple’s humble roots in Cholon, a Chinese district in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

“I escaped by boat to Hong Kong,” Vincent recalls, “and lived in a refugee camp for two years.”

Eventually they caught the eye of a Lutheran Church group that brought them to America in 1980 and saw to their placement with American foster families.

They were both 16 and met one another through the sponsorship program.

“I worked as a bus boy, dishwasher, waiter,” Vincent says, noting that much of the money he earned went back to Vietnam to aid their families, who eventually made it out of the Communist country and to the United States.

“There was no chance to go to college,” says the man who served Chinese and Vietnamese meals to thousands of DU faculty, staffers and students over the years. “We worked all the time.”

Now the Highlands Ranch couple can kick back, their plans for another restaurant relegated to “sometime in the future. Maybe.”

“We’ve chosen to enter a new stage of our life,” says a handwritten note taped to the door. “Thank you for many years of support and friendship.”

When the café reopens as The Pioneer, it will be part of a family-owned pub group that includes familiar names: The Spot, The Irish Hound, Wyman’s No. 5 and Don’s Club Tavern. The Pioneer will feature Mexican food and margaritas, says Chris Bradford, director of operations.

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