Vietnamese Restaurant Gets Cold Reception

The owner of the proposed restaurant must return to the ZBA with new drawings to gain approvals.


At their meeting on Wednesday the Zoning Board of Appeals sent a proposed Vietnamese restaurant at 286 Humphrey Street back to the drawing board.

The applicants, Nam Nguyen and Tho Thi Lam-Nguyen, want a permit to renovate the building, formerly occupied by an insurance company and law firm. The restaurant would seat 61 diners inside and 20 outside.

Opposition came from several board members who said an Asian-themed exterior would not be appropriate for the neighborhood.

Immediate neighbors objected to having a restaurant at that site, which can have only six parking spaces.

One neighbor said the delivery truck noise and the proposed dumpster would create problems for his property.

The issue was postponed until new drawings of the proposed restaurant could be created.

The Swampscott restaurant plans to serve a variety of traditional fare including a Vietnamese specialty called pho, a soup with rice noodles, chicken or beef, vegetables, bean sprouts, lime, Thai basil and other ingredients.

Nguyen’s will feature food with traditional Vietnamese ingredients like lemongrass, Vietnamese mint, Thai basil, fish sauce, mint and ginger, as well as the pho.  Fish, chicken, beef and pork are staples in the Vietnamese diet, and many varieties of seafood.

Also, many Vietnamese dishes focus on the vegetarian tradition established by Buddhists.

The Nguyen family bought the property on Humphrey Street from Beatrice Insurance, who will be moving to a new location in town.

Kelly Heath April 27, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Tis is why we are so limited on good food options in our downtown. We would welcome such a delicious option right here in Swampscott instead of having to go into Peabody, the next closest Vietnamese restaurant. Good luck Nguyen family!
Kevin Donaher April 27, 2012 at 01:45 PM
There must be more to the story other than the several members of the zoning boards objection to how the Vietnamese-themed exterior would not be appropriate for the neighborhood.....or could it be? Come on man!
Justin Mattera April 27, 2012 at 03:23 PM
It's just that Swampscott is horrendous! Tell the owner to come to Salem, where restaurants are a welcome and thriving part of our downtown and community.
Whisky April 27, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Seems the only thing the NIMBY's ever want in that neighborhood is empty parking spaces.
Lee Eric Freedman April 27, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Swampscott welcomes a host of chain restaurants (Chipolte, Bertucci's, Uno etc). Oh-boy, we are becoming the new route 114, Peabody and route 1, Saugus. I can't wait for the grand opening of Mc-Taco-King with a 24 hour drive through.
Mick April 27, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Beats having empty shop fronts and boarded up stores. Six parking spaces is more than most shops have on Humphrey St. We need to stop standing in the way of businesses that what to bring in revenue for our city.
Ilene April 27, 2012 at 05:59 PM
I could have predicted this. People buy a home on a mixed use busy street and then complain when businesses move in. I love Swampscott but Humphrey St is an embarrassment - there is no rhyme or reason to how the buildings look and few nice businesses. The neighbors blocked the restaurant that was going to replace Papa John's and all we got was an empty, awkward looking building.
Justin Mattera April 27, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Like I said, Swampscott is miserable. Moved to Salem years ago, no intention of moving back. It's too bad, I had fun growing up there.
Gerrit Bradley April 27, 2012 at 07:18 PM
This reminds me of the time when the derelict property next to Thai Tani was slated to become a bar/grill with a roof-deck. That would have been great. But NIMBY's shot that down. I believe it's the outdoor seating and related noise. It is not like he is asking to put the Hilltop Steakhouse on Humphrey Street. Now THAT would be out of place. I live near the town Temple fiasco and will be impacted by that construction, but remain optimistic. Perhaps other town-people can step up and realize that stagnation does not improve the community.
Bridget Russo April 27, 2012 at 07:28 PM
We could sure use a good steakhouse. When we wanted a good steak and a stiff manhattan we always went to the Glover House and since they closed down years ago nothing around here has come close.
sue April 27, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Let's revitalize Humphrey Street. We need the tax reveune. I am tired of my taxes being raised every year and gaining nothing. We can't afford to pay for weekly recycling. Instead of nickel and diming the residents, how about some new businesses to foot some bills?
GeneralGloverWhatAWaste April 28, 2012 at 02:33 PM
New town "leaders" same as the old town leaders. Let's not only drive businesses out of Swampscott...let's present every moronic hurdle possible to prevent new owners from helping us try to improve our pathetic business corridor. Definition of insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing over and over...and expecting better results. I spit my coffee out in laughter about the delivery truck noise gripe. I'm sure a restaurant of that size will have a truck idling for HOURS as it delivers the goods. And on a major road! Oh...shocking...never ANY noise comes from Humphrey St...well probably not since the resident that raised the supposed issue moved in. Maybe another nail salon would be quieter?
How dare you want to open a restaurant on Humphrey Street! There has never been a restaurant on Humphrey Street since I've lived here.
zachary antczak April 30, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Come to Salem. We need Pho badly and have the community that would keep you busy. And to Kelly Heath...Sugarcane isn't all that good. Head into Lynn and eat at Pho Minh Ky. As good as it gets. Better yet...Lynn is where good food lives.
William Legault April 30, 2012 at 01:53 PM
"Please come to Salem, in the springtime. We've eating with some friends, they've got lots of room. You can serve your pho right on the sidewalk, in a cafe where I hope to be dining soon." With apologies to Kenny Chesney
chester suchecki April 30, 2012 at 03:34 PM
the old dodge street property os open for a good vietnamese restaurant
John B Goode April 30, 2012 at 05:38 PM
To suddenly drop a restaurant where there was an office building seems pretty inconsiderate of the people not directly affected. I hope the neighbors do everything they can to maintain their quality of life even if it is without the help of their fellow community. The noise and smells of a restaurant are enough to drive someone inside on a warm sunny day. If you really believe one restaurant, as opposed to something similar to the original use, will save Swampscott, I can understand why the budget is in so much trouble.
william g sullivan II April 30, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Zachary you do not know right you are. Excellent small resturaunts. Big fan of Casa Antigua, Jamacias Flavor,New Asia,etc.. But you know how it is, the high falutin denizens of Swampscott wouldnt dare sully the tires of their Mercedes on the dirty streets of Lynn. Unless of course they were going to the Blue Ox which is about 100 feet from Casa Antigua
william g sullivan II April 30, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Mr, Goode, maybe you should just stay inside and offline because unless you are a Veit Nam Veteran you sound like a racist NIMBY. Heaven forbid that someone make an attempt at starting a buisness in the Holier-Than-Thou horseheap town of Swampshot. I would think that a resturaunt generates more money than an empty building and possibly more than an Insurance company although I could be wrong.
I used to live above a restaurant in Boston. You don't want to go inside if you live near a restaurant on a sunny day. If anything, a restaurant drives you outside on a warm sunny day. The only that is going to save Swampscott is growth in the tax base, not being an enemy of business like you are.
Gerrit Bradley April 30, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Marion Court College has not applied to become a casino. THAT would create some issues for the neighbors that might also involve the Swampscott community. We are talking about a Restaurant on Humphrey St.?
John B Goode April 30, 2012 at 11:45 PM
We're talking about a nonconforming use for the property that is before the board of appeals. If the neighbors were for it, the appeal would proceed smoothly. I suspect the same board, although not the same members, approved the neighbors that now oppose the conversion of Papa John's. Someone thought they would improve the tax base. A restaurant makes noise, whether it's refrigeration equipment, deliveries, or unruly patrons. I was just sympathizing with the folks who will have this new neighbor. An office would make considerably less noise and goes home at 5:00, keeping the neighborhood as it is zoned. Some of you should check the water level in your Depends. I never said anything racist or anti business, just trying to support the neighbors and keep the zoning laws that were planned for a reason. There seems to be a toxic attitude in this town, at least from many commentors on this site for several subjects, that people should just accept what is dropped in their backyard for the good of the town.
Myjanda May 01, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Unless we are talking about another Humphrey St, there are restaurants and bakeries just a block away from this location, so for someone to worry about the neighbors who chose to move onto a main commercial thoroughfare seems misplaced. And there is always someone against something new going into their neighborhood, no matter what. People don't like change and if we let that be the deciding factor in every case, literally nothing would ever get built. Ever.
Richard Gindes May 16, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Pho Minh Ky is wonderful and this seems like it would be a terrific addition to the Humphrey Street corridor. We do not need any more chain restaurants in town. We need to find out why the ZBA is troubled by an Asian themed restaurant! An Italian restaurant or Jewish style Deli restaurant would be more acceptable? Why? What's up with that? We need to support businesses especially along Humphrey street!
Liz May 16, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Maybe the ZBA is waiting for this gentleman to make a sizeable donation to the town in order to get his permit, apparently blackmail is now acceptable in Swampscott. It happened with the project by Bruce Paradise, wonder who else had to pay the piper? Is this even legal if it is legal seems to be very unethical...


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