New Orleans is known for gumbo and étouffée, but also for pho, goi cuon, and bahn mi. The majority of Vietnamese restaurants are on the West Bank and locals (including Emeril Lagasse) made the trek across the river to Gretna for steaming bowls of chicken pho and spring rolls at Phò Tâù Bay. Having closed their Gretna restaurant, Phò Tâù Bay will be opening soon on Tulane Avenue. In East New Orleans, Dong Phuong is a go-to for what some argue is the best French bread in town, plus Vietnamese sweets like mung bean bars and yucca gummy worms. In Uptown, a flurry of spots, including Le Viet, a coffee shop-cum-pho house, Magasin, known for its unconventional banh mi made using crusty baguettes from nearby bakery La Boulangerie, and Lilly's, which gets top marks for its beef flank pho.
One of the most interesting things to slurp is a three color drink, Che 3 mau. So called for the layers of sweetened mung bean purée, topped by sweetened adzuki beans, coconut milk, shards of pandan-colored jellies and a fistful of ice cubes. Some people mix up the works to a muddy mess before digging in. I prefer leaving the layers pristine, pushing a long-handled teaspoon to the bottom of the glass and pulling up some of all three flavors, coconut milk and a bit of ice in each spoonful. The textures, flavors and colors of this drink-dessert, rock my world.