Dong Phuong Bakery builds on decades of beloved baked goods
Written by Frank Etheridge
Regarded as one of the best places to dine on the most authentic Vietnamese cuisine in the country by the New York Times (in multiple blogs and articles), Dong Phuong Restaurant and Bakery has been in East New Orleans, located on Chef Menteur Highway, for more than 30 years. Thought by locals to have the best New Orleans-style French bread in the area, Dong Phuong’s Banh Mi — also called a “Vietnamese po’boy” — starts at under $3 depending on the choice of meat.
Even though he is new to his role as general manager of the iconic restaurant and bakery, Josh Julian knows what their baked goods mean to the people of southeast Louisiana. Just under a 30-minute drive from downtown New Orleans, the bakery attracts visitors and locals from both far and wide.
“They’ve done such a great job over the last 30 years, so consistent in everything they make, that I just mention the name Dong Phuong to people I meet and their eyes light up and they say, ‘I love that bakery’,” says Julian, who joined the family-owned business over the summer after years of running the now-closed Fox Hole Oyster Bar and Grill in Slidell. “Every day I’m out driving the van, I have at least three or four people come up to me and say, ‘I love your bread.’ It’s amazing, especially considering they’ve never done any advertising. It’s always been all by word of mouth.”
Long a beloved pillar of the Vietnamese community that found a home in East New Orleans following the fall of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War, Dong Phuong Bakery is deeply rooted in tradition.
Everything is baked fresh daily, with the baking process starting at midnight before the doors open to the public daily at 8 a.m. The bakery opens its doors an hour earlier on Saturdays at 7 a.m. to meet early-rising customers at the long-running neighborhood farmers market that offers Vietnamese produce almost impossible to find anywhere else in the region (if not the country). It’s one of the few places in the United States that makes mooncakes by hand, preparing and decorating the traditional Asian autumnal delights, made of mixed nuts, fruits, beans and duck eggs.
The establishment has also met the admiration of Chef Emeril Lagasse and shows on the Food Network, with yet another feature to be filmed at the 20,000-square-feet facility in the coming weeks. However, that doesn’t mean Dong Phuong Bakery is adverse to change its ways to reach new customers, especially as a new generation now comes into control.
Following the passing of founders De and Huong Tran, the husband-and-wife team that founded the bakery not long after settling in the Versailles neighborhood in East New Orleans in 1980, the bakery’s torch is now carried by a new generation. A University of Texas graduate, Linh Garza now owns and operates her family’s business and a few changes are in store.
According to Julian, these changes consist of updating its phone systems, establishing a presence on social media, becoming more accessible for English-speaking customers, and an increased focus on expanding its wholesale operations. “Restaurants all over the region know and love our bread. So we’re adding to our fleet of vehicles and expanding our delivery routes, now stretching out all the way from Baton Rouge to the West, to Bay St. Louis to the East.”
Even given these updates to the iconic institution, much will stay the same at Dong Phuong Bakery. All the meat products are prepared and seasoned in-house and all the cookies, King Cake and pastries are baked fresh daily.
“This is the closest thing you will find to a true Asian bakery in America,” Julian says. “That’s in East New Orleans, and that will never change.”
Dong Phuong Restaurant and Bakery
14207 Chef Menteur Hwy
New Orleans, LA 70129