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The End of an Era: Turtle Tower Closes Its Last San Francisco Location

The SoMa location of Turtle Tower closed on November 19

Pho ga from Turtle Tower. Turtle Tower
Dianne de Guzman is a deputy editor at Eater SF writing about Bay Area restaurant and bar trends, upcoming openings, and pop-ups.

When the sad news arrived in September that the Tenderloin location of pho favorite Turtle Tower was closing, the only solace was that there was still one location left of the restaurant in SoMa. Now, it seems that the final restaurant at 501 Sixth Street is also closed as of Sunday, November 19, owner Steven Nghia Pham confirmed to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Everything is so hard to do business, so we close,” he told the paper.

There were previous indicators that the Larkin Street location was on its way out back in June when Tablehopper broke the news that a real estate listing for the restaurant’s building had popped up. Just three months later, the family-run restaurant confirmed that it would indeed close. That location was hit by a daytime robbery that made the news back in May 2020, when a man stole cash from the tip jar and register. “Once I shared the story with the other merchants, a lot of responses were, ‘This happens to me every other week,’” Turtle Tower owner Thao Pham told SFGATE at the time. “I think we’ve been protecting this beautiful image of San Francisco and don’t want to air out our dirty laundry, but I no longer feel safe in my own restaurant — my own neighborhood.”

Still, there weren’t many other indicators that the family-run business was also planning to close up its SoMa location when the Tenderloin shop closed. Since the restaurant first opened in January 2000, Turtle Tower served many comforting bowls of its northern-style pho to San Francisco residents. It became popular for its pho ga, made with organic, free-range chicken, and noodles that were made in-house daily. The business became popular enough to expand to as many as four locations, with restaurants in the Outer Richmond, San Francisco State University, SoMa, before shrinking down to this final, now-closed spot. Pham told the Chronicle that there’s still a chance of partnering up on a new location of Turtle Tower down the road, but for now, he plans to take a break.