Camdi restaurant closes after 35 years of business

The Vietnamese restaurant in Dinkytown closed after facing difficulty during the pandemic.


Image by Ethan Fine

Camdi Restaurant owners, Camdi and Kiet, pose for a photo on the last day before the restaurant closed, Saturday, March 26. Camdi Restaurant was open in Dinkytown for over 35 years.

by Kara Savage

Camdi, a Dinkytown Vietnamese restaurant, closed March 26 after struggling to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Camdi and Kiet Phan, the couple who own the restaurant, said they want to retire from the over 35-year-old restaurant to spend more time with family, especially their grandchildren.

The restaurant had a hard time recovering from COVID-19, Camdi said. The restaurant spent most of 2020 and 2021 doing takeout and delivery. For delivery orders, paying companies like DoorDash was an added cost for the restaurant.

Over the last few weeks, the restaurant has been filled with past students and their families that used to come to Camdi restaurant when they lived in Dinkytown.

“We watch these students come and go throughout the years,” Camdi said. “Many come back years later with their kids or grandchildren to show them the restaurant.”

Chris Lautenschlager, the Marcy-Holmes Neighborhood Association executive director, said Camdi was a special restaurant. Lautenschlagersaid he regularly saw Camdi and Kiet cooking and talking to customers.

“I just knew that it was the place to go to get really authentic and inexpensive food, which is a key element to any person who lives near a university.” Lautenschlager said.

Camdi, the owner of Camdi Restaurant, adorns the walls of the restaurant with her original oil paintings. Following her retirement, Camdi says she hopes to spend much more time painting. (Ethan Fine)

How Camdi came to be

Camdi Phan moved to Minnesota from Vietnam in 1978. She said as an immigrant learning English, she had a hard time trying to find a higher paying job. As a result, she decided to open her own business.

After a Japanese restaurant in the same spot closed, the owner pushed Camdi to open her own establishment. Camdi said the old restaurant owner mentored her throughout the business process and helped her learn how to run a restaurant.

“We made mistakes in the beginning, but those mistakes helped us learn to be better,” Camdi said. “That’s what helped us be successful for so many years.”

Hu Ly, a longtime customer and friend of the Phans, said Camdi and Kiet knew each other in Vietnam before moving to the United States. After moving here separately, they reconnected and got married. Kiet, a University of Minnesota graduate, joined Camdi in the restaurant a few years after it opened.

Ly said when he moved here from Vietnam in the 1970s there were few options for Asian cuisine. He would go to Camdi for an affordable and home cooked meal. Camdi grew a business that people in the community would visit for the food and for the environment, Ly said.

“My favorite table in Camdi is the table by the window. You see Gray’s across the street, and that’s where Bob Dylan started. You think, ‘Wow Bob Dylan used to live there in the apartment on the second floor,’” Ly said. “There’s a lot of history to see from that one table.”

Camdi and Kiet said they enjoyed running their Dinkytown restaurant, but they know it is their time to move on.

“I will miss the people that have been coming for years and the new students coming in for the first time,” Camdi said.