Nestled next to Wit's Inn in Mid-City for more than 10 years, Doson Noodle House (135 N. Carrollton Ave., 504-309-7283) is one of only a handful of businesses from those days left on that stretch of Carrollton Avenue. Owner and chef Doson Ha opened the restaurant in summer 2005. A week later, the city was struck by Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures.
"The water was up to about here," says Ha, holding his hand about 2 feet above a tabletop. He says he couldn't reopen until the following year, but business has been steady since.
Originally from Vietnam, Ha moved to New Orleans as a young man, at one point taking courses at Delgado Community College. "I went to school for drafting," he laughs. Once he started working at his friend's Chinese restaurant in 1984, he discovered his true passion was cooking. After spending a couple years helping his friend open a restaurant in Ohio, Ha came back to New Orleans and opened up his own place on Oak Street in 1997. The name: "Chinese Chinese."
"It was a Chinese restaurant," he says, "but every now and then I would serve Vietnamese food to friends. It turns out that they really liked it."
Soon after, Ha changed the name of the restaurant to Doson Noodle House before moving the whole operation to Carrollton Avenue.
Doson Noodle House serves a range of Vietnamese dishes, including the popular pho and a variety of bun — the classic dish of vermicelli noodles served with a choice of grilled meats or tofu and vegetables — in an unfussy, comfortable dining area. The restaurant offers brunch on weekdays and switches to a dinner menu at 4 p.m., with delivery and takeout services in the evenings.
There also are a few American Chinese standards such as sweet and sour chicken. Ha says these dishes are left over from his old restaurant's menu.
"The love is still there with those items, so why not?" he says.
A friendly, accommodating atmosphere is important to Ha and his staff. He says he takes pleasure in meeting his guests and shaking their hands whenever possible.
"I'm very pleased with this neighborhood," he says. "The people come in and smile and enjoy the food. They're all very nice."
For Ha, it's as simple as that.
"My point of view is that I love what I do and so do the people who come in." He smiles. "It's been good."
Ha says he's looking forward to winter, when customers come in to combat cooler temperatures with hot bowls of pho.
"That's what's great about pho, everyone loves it," he says. "I definitely love a big bowl of pho in the morning."