After Hurricane Katrina, Vietnamese restaurateurs rebuild in Lancaster County

Ten years ago, Vy Banh and her partners were planning to open a fifth restaurant in New Orleans under the well-regarded name of Pho Tau Bay.

Then came Hurricane Katrina.

Banh, a third-generation restaurateur, headed to Houston with her family for what she thought would be an extended Labor Day weekend. Once the hurricane passed, she called an employee who had stayed behind despite the storm. Everything was fine, she was told, just some water up to the doors.

“Hours later, everything changed,” Banh said.

The levees broke, and New Orleans descended into chaos.

An aunt in Lancaster County called and offered her basement to Banh, and 20 relatives — two of whom were pregnant — caravanned 30 hours from the Gulf Coast to Central Pennsylvania. They were leaving behind four restaurants around New Orleans with the name of Pho Tau Bay, which means “Flying Soup Boat” in Vietnamese. The fifth restaurant never opened.

The family business — now owned by Vy, her husband, Ninh, along with her sister, Alys Truong, and her sister’s husband, Bernard Truong — dates back to the 1960s in Vietnam and broke ground in the United States in 1982.

In 2005, the self-made business owners arrived in Lancaster County to open what is known today as Rice and Noodles, which is expanding to open a second location in Lancaster city.

Rebuilding the brand

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The first thing the Banhs and Truongs changed was the name. Although Pho Tau Bay was well known in New Orleans, they didn’t think it would fit in Lancaster County. They did keep the logo, However.

“It was hard to change the name,” Vy Banh said. “But that chapter is closed.”

Lenay Ruhl

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