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Friday, March 2, 2018

DD Mau Brings Fast-Casual Vietnamese to Maryland Heights

Posted By on Fri, Mar 2, 2018 at 6:03 AM

click to enlarge DD Mau serves fast-casual Vietnamese cuisine in Maryland Heights. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • DD Mau serves fast-casual Vietnamese cuisine in Maryland Heights.

Growing up, Julie Truong swore she would never work in the restaurant industry, and until four months ago, she was making good on that promise. She'd learned the fashion business at Los Angeles' Fashion Institute of Design and Management, finished her bachelor's degree in business from Mizzou and landed her dream job working for Levi's in Chicago.

Still, no matter how hard she tried to shake it, Truong could not deny that the restaurant industry was in her blood. Growing up the daughter of immigrant parents who own the north city restaurant Vinh Chop Suey, Truong was raised with a passion for food that never left. In Chicago, she'd spend her spare time cooking and daydreaming of the type of restaurant she'd open if she had the chance, and the one day, it hit her: She did have that chance. All she had to do was take it.

Troung made her dreams a reality on February 7, when she opened her debut restaurant, DD Mau (11982 Dorsett Road, Maryland Heights; 314-942-2300), in Maryland Heights. Named for the Vietnamese phrase that roughly translates to "let's go" or "hurry up," DD Mau represents her vision for a fresh, fast-casual concept that she feels is missing in the area.

"There are not a lot of Vietnamese restaurants around here," Truong says. "There really isn't even a lot of fresh food, and there are all these businesses and offices in the area. Maryland Heights is at 95 percent capacity for businesses, and around 120,000 people are here during the day. It just made sense to focus on a daytime concept."

click to enlarge Julie Troung left behind a career in fashion to open DD Mao. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Julie Troung left behind a career in fashion to open DD Mao.

In that sense, DD Mau borrows from the fast-casual, counter-service model popularized by places like Chipotle. Guests choose from a handful of proteins like steak, shrimp or tofu and then choose how they'd like them prepared, with  options including a vermicelli bowl or over a salad. However, the restaurant diverges from the fast-casual model in the sense that dishes are cooked in the kitchen to order — not assembled from a steam table of pre-made items.

Truong decided to do things this way to adhere to the traditional Vietnamese way of cooking as much as possible. "We are modern, but our recipes are authentic," she explains. "I stay true to what my mom taught me, but I still put twists on things."

Those twists include serving traditional Vietnamese banh mi fillings inside of Chinese-style bao sliders, or serving her banh mi with grilled chicken. As Truong explains, these touches, as well as a more fast-casual format for ordering Vietnamese flavors, make the restaurant more accessible to the casual diner.

click to enlarge A noodle bowl with spring rolls. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • A noodle bowl with spring rolls.
Guests can still adhere closely to tradition with dishes like the pork vermicelli bowl, which is garnished with lettuce, cucumber, cabbage, cilantro, pickled vegetables, peanuts and an egg roll. The restaurant also serves traditional pho in a variety of preparations.

Truong's contemporary touches are on display in the polished, modern decor. The space, which used to be occupied by the Rice House, is large, open and decorated with posters featuring food pun cartoons done by her artist friend.

Truong laughs about landing in the business that she so insistently said she would never work in, but she is happy to be home and doing what she loves. And she's not the only one.

"My parents are happy about this," Truong says, smiling. "They are happy that I am working in the business, but I think they are more happy just to have me back home."

DD Mau is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Click through for more photos of DD Mau.

click to enlarge Chinese bao with a Vietnamese twist.
  • Chinese bao with a Vietnamese twist.

click to enlarge The banh mi with grilled chicken. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • The banh mi with grilled chicken.
click to enlarge Whimsical touches warm up the space. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Whimsical touches warm up the space.
click to enlarge Guests can order food to-go or eat in the comfortable dining room. - CHERYL BAEHR
  • Guests can order food to-go or eat in the comfortable dining room.

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