Photography by Jessica Turner.

Carol Nguyen never planned to be a restaurant owner. 

After leaving Vietnam in 1978 as a refugee, she moved with her family to Australia. It wasn’t until 1995 when she returned to Vietnam, and she lived there a few years before migrating to Texas 20 years ago.

Her first business was a retail store, but it only lasted about a year. Eventually, she decided to open a restaurant, which wasn’t an unusual decision for her family. One of her cousins owns one in Vietnam, and her aunt has a Cajun restaurant in New Orleans. 

The Cajun restaurant was where Nguyen learned the ins and outs of the business. And in 2013, she opened Crazee Crab in Grand Prairie.

 Seven years passed before Nguyen opened Ngon Vietnamese Kitchen. Missing the food she grew up eating, she wanted to do it right.

“I wanted to try some Vietnamese food that I always had in Vietnam, but I wanted it to be my own way, my family recipe that I can’t find around here,” she says.

She picked a location on Greenville Avenue, noticing there were plenty of Vietnamese restaurants in the suburbs but fewer of them in Dallas.

Since opening in 2020, Ngon has already become a neighborhood favorite, claiming some “best of” titles in local publications.

“We have a lot of support from the community,” she says.

The one-page menu isn’t overwhelming. There are two salads, three curry dishes, six rice plates, nine noodle options and a handful of starters, sides and desserts. All of it is authentic, and some of the recipes, like the bun cha Hanoi, belong to her grandmother, who taught her to cook. The rest of the dishes were developed as Nguyen learned from professionals in Vietnam. 

Pho, rice noodles in a savory beef broth, is one of the most popular selections, and Ngon offers it in a few varieties — with chicken, beef or seafood, as well as a vegetarian option. Another common pick is the shaking tenderloin, which is beef tenderloin, bell pepper and onions seasoned with black pepper and served with blue rice.

Nguyen says the food at Ngon is unlike food served at other Vietnamese places. Her restaurant prepares dishes in the style of northern Vietnam, which is saltier and uses different spices from the sweeter southern Vietnamese versions. 

Ngon is also unique in its celebration of Vietnamese culture and events. For the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, which took place in September, the restaurant hosted lion dance performances and served holiday dishes: hopia cake, or mooncake, and a red bean pudding. Many Asian countries celebrate this holiday, but Vietnam’s take has its own traditions and legends. One version of a story tells of a man named Cuôi who clung to a magical banyan tree as it floated to the moon. It’s said that a close look at the full moon will reveal the shadow of a man sitting under a tree.  

“I want people around here to know more about Vietnamese culture. People know about Chinese and Japanese a lot more than Vietnamese, so I want to introduce my culture,” she says. 

Nestled between Gallo Nero and Bullzerk, Ngon offers indoor and patio seating on Lowest Greenville. Inside, Nguyen designed the space to be comfortable and welcoming. 

“I love plants, so I have a lot of green around the restaurant,” she says.

The word “ngon,” without an accent, means “delicious” in Vietnamese. With the accent, ngôn changes pronunciation, and it’s the name of Nguyen’s mother. 

“I think about my mom first because she’s the one who always supported me,” Nguyen says.

Nguyen plays active roles at the restaurant. She’s not just the owner; she’s also the head chef and waits tables, making menu recommendations to guests. Many people who’ve tried Vietnamese food before have come across pho or spring rolls. Ngon offers those, but Nguyen says she encourages people to venture beyond what’s familiar. 

In the future, Nguyen says she hopes to open a second Ngon either in Austin, where her 25-year-old child lives, or in Florida, where she has a home. “I want customers to feel like they’ve come to visit a friend or family’s house,” Nguyen says. “So I try my best to make it cozy.”

Ngon Vietnamese Kitchen, 1907 Greenville Ave., 469.250.7183