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Dallas-based Best Chef of Texas finalist proudly shares Vietnamese culture with sandwiches and coffee

Chef Duong's recipes are famous in Dallas, and now are getting national recognition too. She's a finalist for the 2023 James Beard Award for Best Chef in Texas.

DALLAS — Weekend mornings for Chef Reyna Duong and her team are busy. It’s a good kind of busy at her small business in the Cedars neighborhood near Downtown Dallas.

Duong recently opened ChimLanh, the first Vietnamese coffee shop in Dallas, after realizing the city was missing a café like this. On Saturdays and Sundays, ChimLanh opens at 9:00 a.m. 

In addition to Vietnamese coffee, Duong hand-picks pastries made by local chefs to sell to customers. 

She said, “I wanted to bring in other Vietnamese businesses, you know, certain favorites that I have throughout the city.”

Then at noon, under the same roof, Sandwich Hag opens. It’s Chef Duong’s bread and butter, her original restaurant and a staple in Dallas. 

Orders for bánh mì sandwiches are placed before Sandwich Hag even opens. 

“It’s a sandwich, right? The only difference is the ingredients are different. So for us, we have grilled pork. We have our famous house pork sausage,” she said. 

Her recipes are famous in Dallas, and now are getting national recognition too. Chef Duong is a finalist for the 2023 James Beard Awards for Best Chef Texas.

With tears in her eyes, she said, “When I got nominated as a semifinalist for James Beard, it was such an emotional moment. And then when I got the finalist, I was like, 'Wow, okay, this is great.'”

It’s emotional because of Duong’s care for her customers, employees and each and every ingredient she uses. Her restaurant is also an homage to her late mother, who she says would be proud.

“The last bite will be just as good as the first, if not better,” Chef Duong said. It’s why at Sandwich Hag, she has a no-modifications policy. She says she shouldn’t have to explain or change the way she likes her dishes.

Chef Duong is unapologetically loud and proud of the culture she shares. 

“So much more than cooking good food is creating a space where everybody feels safe when they're here and they want to come here because it is a celebration of who we are as a people," said Duong. 

She heads to Chicago in June for the James Beard Foundation 2023 Restaurant and Chef Awards ceremony.

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