Café Trang adds Vietnamese flavor to Park City
After the Vietnam War ended in 1975, many Vietnamese, including Long Tran, left the country for America.
Tran left Vietnam in 1979, following his sister who had come to the United States a few years earlier.
"I was a refugee in 1979," Tran said. "I wanted to come here because my sister was already here and she sponsored me to come here. I left Vietnam when I was 16 years old and now I’m 43."
After arriving in the U.S., Tran finished school and prepared for college. Although he missed Vietnam, he loved his new home.
One of the reasons he loved America was the availability of educational opportunities. Wanting to get a degree, Tran went to college in Utah.
"I studied electronic engineering at Weber State University and, after all that, I ended up not being an engineer," he said. "But I love it. In my job I get to meet a lot of different people. It’s my life. I love it."
His life took a turn when he married Anna Nguyen, whose parents had opened a Vietnamese restaurant in Salt Lake City called Café Trang. After two years, however, Tran’s in-laws wanted to retire so Tran and his wife took over the business in 1989.
Tran said people like Vietnamese food because of the multiple influences on the culture. Because Vietnam has, as some point, been controlled by both China and France, and occupied by America, all the countries have had an influence on Vietnamese food.
Most would say Vietnamese food is most like Chinese, Tran said there is a distinct difference.
"Vietnamese has more vegetables, less oil, less grease, and more flavor," he said. "We also use more fresh food than you’ll find in a Chinese restaurant."
Although he said Vietnamese cuisine has tinges of French, hints of American and flavors from Chinese foods, that has not been enough to satisfy Café Trang’s myriad customers. The menu has extended to more than just Vietnamese food to include traditional Chinese and Thai dishes.
"Most everything is a family recipe, but some are from friends," Tran said. "Most of the chefs have been here with me for over 10 years. We have very good chefs who make these family recipes."
Those family recipes helped Café Trang earn "Best Of" honors from Salt Lake Weekly’s Annual Reader’s Poll for three straight years, and to expand from one store, to four, including three in the Greater Salt Lake Area and one in Park City.
A few of Tran’s favorite dishes are the mango fish, caramel pork, Thai curry and, of course, the egg rolls.
"We care for the customer and we try to do the best customer service we can," he said. "We bring in fresh vegetables every day, fresh meat, every day. Everything is fresh. But the customer is the boss."
Having friends in Park City, Tran wanted open a store there as well. He said he liked the "potential" of the area. He also said it gives him the chance to bring his menu to the world-renown ski town.
"It lets me show the Café Trang menu around the world because people from around the world go there," he said.
Tran said the Park City location, which opened in February and is managed by Tran’s sister, Vickie Tran, has been doing well, despite a few more complications than in Salt Lake.
"It’s a little bit different because the labor is different and the delivery is different," he said, referring to the lack of a nearby college to supply a wait staff. "The space there is also a little bit smaller than in downtown Salt Lake City so we had to compress everything."
The emergence of Café Trang as one of Northern Utah’s most popular Asian restaurants is just one of the blessings Tran said has come from a move to America a move he said he appreciates more every day.
"I miss Vietnam, but when I go back it’s totally different," he said. "I went back in 2000, and it had really changed. Because all my friends are here, my wife and kids are here, this is my home. I love both countries, but this is my home."
"I appreciate what this country has done for me," he continued. "Here there is freedom of religion, freedom of everything. I have a great appreciation for what I have here."
Café Trang is located at 1811 Sidewinder Drive and can be reached at (435) 655-8884 and is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
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