by Ian McNulty
While a pair of Vietnamese restaurants continue to take shape along Magazine Street, a third new Uptown Vietnamese eatery is slated to open soon on St. Charles Avenue.
Renovations are underway for le Viet café (2135 St. Charles Ave., 304-1339), which manager Kim Nguyen describes as a combination of coffee shop and restaurant. It will serve pastries, frozen yogurt and bubble teas alongside Vietnamese standards like pho, bun, rice plates and banh mi sandwiches, plus beer and wine at the bar.
“We’ll be open daily at 7 a.m. for people who want to come in and get a coffee and croissant and then we’ll serve lunch and dinner through 9 p.m.,” she says.
Pho and other savories will be served in the morning as well for those who want to start their day in one traditional Vietnamese fashion with a big bowl of steaming rice noodle soup.
This address has previously been a string of undistinguished restaurants affiliated with the adjacent bar Igor’s Lounge & Game Room, including most recently Buster’s Soul Food and before that Igor’s Garlic Clove. But earlier this year, Tiffany Lee, proprietor of Uptown’s Capt. Sal’s seafood market, took over the spot and began planning le Viet café. To help run the place, she brought in Nguyen, a Denver transplant whose family operates Vietnamese restaurants in that city.
They intend to open le Viet café as early as Nov. 17. That could make it the first in a bumper crop of Vietnamese restaurants in an Uptown stretch where this increasingly popular cuisine has heretofore been hard to find.
Magasin Vietnamese Café is still taking shape at 4201 Magazine St., where it will serve a combination of home-style Vietnamese dishes with French influences and a large array of made-to-order spring rolls. New Orleans native Kim Nguyen (of no relation to the Kim Nguyen above) is developing Magasin after opening several successful Vietnamese restaurants in Houston.
She expects to open in mid-December, and now she’s adding a second eatery within the same building. It will be called Bites by Magasin and it will be a walk-up window serving breakfast plates, po-boys and weekly specials, including barbecue. Seating will be outdoors on a deck and a side patio.
“Bites will be a very chill, affordable breakfast and lunch place,” Nguyen says.
Meanwhile, about a mile and a half away at 2005 Magazine St., a new eatery called Pho Noi Viet will serve a traditional Vietnamese noodle house menu. Owner Vinh Vu reports that he and his wife Kim Vu are a few weeks away from opening Pho Noi Viet as they grapple with the usual city inspections and approvals.