WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The leading restaurant in the New Orleans East Vietnamese community, Dong Phuong does it all: pho, a long menu of other Vietnamese dishes, and–most famously–banh mi, the Vietnamese poor boy sandwiches. They bake their own bread for that, even. And it’s almost laughably inexpensive.
The menu covers all the essentials of Vietnamese cooking, from the offbeat, soupy breakfasts enjoyed mostly by Vietnamese people to an array of entrees so large you’d better be hungry. It is possible to eat light here, however. The distinctive Vietnamese sandwiches called bahn mi look like poor boys but have a flavor all their own, full of fresh herbs, unusual meats, and sharp dressings. They have been called the best of their kind in America, and it’s hard to argue with that.
De and Huong Tran–who came to New Orleans from Vietnam in 1980–opened Dong Phuong in 1981. (The name means simply “east.”) It was the first major restaurant in the Vietnamese enclave on Chef Menteur Highway past Michoud, in New Orleans East. From the outset the place became as distinguished for its baked goods as the food served at its table. When banh mi became popular Dong Phuong’s bakery grew to be the definitive source of the French-style bread used to make it. Like the rest of New Orleans East, it was inundated by the Katrina flood. Dong Phuong and its neighbors came back startlingly quickly, giving us new respect for the tenacity and hard work of these people.
The bakery is near the entrance, giving customers an immediate aroma and visual appetizer. Here also is the take-out bahn mi counter, the busiest part of the restaurant. The dining room stretches back from there, a touch fancier than it was before the storm, but still on the utilitarian side.
»Vietnamese crepes with shrimp and pork
»Soft rice noodle crepes with assorted meats
»Bamboo shoots and duck noodle soup
»Spicy hue-style beef noodle soup
Shrimp paste fish cakes noodle soup
Shrimp paste fish cakes and periwinkle noodle soup
Tapioca noodle soup with ham hocks
Asparagus crab meat soup
Glass-noodle soup with meat and seafood
Glass- and/or egg-noodle soup with meat and seafood
Egg noodle with Mandarin duck soup
»Egg noodle soup with braised duck
Egg noodle soup with wonton, meat and seafood
»Big flat rice noodle soup with spicy beef
Pho: Beef Broth with Noodles And. . .
»Assorted beef combination
Well-done lean beef
»Eye of round steak and beef tripe
Steak and beef tendon
Eye-round steak and well-done flank steak
Rice and noodle dishes topped with. . .
»Grilled pork and egg rolls
Grilled chicken and egg rolls
»Lemon grass beef
»Shrimp wrapped with sugarcane and grilled pork
»Roasted pork sausage and grape leaf beef
Roasted pork sausage and shrimp wrapped with sugarcane
Grilled shrimp and pork
Fried or steamed egg noodles with meat and seafood
Stir-fry rice noodle with meat and seafood
Stir-fry big flat rice noodle with meat and seafood
Grilled pork chops
»Korean barbecue short ribs
»Grilled pork chops and shredded pork with broken rice
Grilled chicken and shredded pork with broken rice
»Grilled beef and shredded pork with broken rice
Combination fried rice
Shrimp fried rice
House special fried rice
Szechuan style shrimp or beef
Stir-fry shrimp or beef with broccoli
Crispy, salted shrimp
Shrimp stir-fried with tofu, bean sprouts, and chives
Beef with assorted vegetables
Stir-fry beef with tofu
Chicken with ginger
Chicken with chili and lemon grass
The bakery creates a wide array of pastries, cakes and other desserts daily
FOR BEST RESULTS
The restaurant closes at 6 p.m. (earlier some days), so don’t figure on your normal dinner time. The breakfast/lunch crowd is enormous, and starts at 8 a.m.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The dish descriptions on the menu are daunting for first-timers.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +1
- Value +3
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open Monday lunch
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking