When My Le opened Que Viet in Minneapolis in 1980, it was the second Vietnamese restaurant in Minnesota. Forty-two years later, Que Viet is the state’s longest-running Vietnamese restaurant and is owned and operated by My’s son, Chef Dat Le. We recently spoke with Chef Le to learn about his background, Que Viet’s famous egg rolls and his plans for the future.
When did you start working at Que Viet?
My mom opened the restaurant in 1980, and I got thrown into the kitchen — I was 10. I started out dishwashing. In a couple of years I started expediting and when I got tall enough I started cooking.
Then I went to school and didn’t work in the restaurant for awhile. But I was always used to a fast-paced atmosphere. I didn’t think I could stand an office job. [Eventually] I took over the restaurant from my mom in 1997.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve made to the restaurant over the years?
We built a new kitchen almost five years ago that made it possible to add a new menu. In the 1980s, our menu was really Americanized: chow mein, low mein, fried rice, nothing really authentically Vietnamese. We had egg rolls, but that was about it.
Our new menu added pho, pork and grilled items. Everyone loves pho and knows we’re a Vietnamese restaurant, so for people to come in and for us to say we didn’t have pho seemed funny.
Can you tell us more about your egg rolls—what makes them unique?
They’re big. We use rice paper, not a wonton wrapper and we make them fresh. They’re packed full of meat, not vegetables. I’d say it’s like 90 percent meat.
What’s your favorite dish on the menu?
Still the eggroll! I can eat one every day.
How has the pandemic affected Que Viet?
We’re very blessed—the pandemic didn’t [negatively] affect us. We’re one of the lucky ones, since we had a strong takeout business before the pandemic. I thought I was going to have to let people go, but I ended up adding more.
What are your plans for Que Viet going forward?
To open more restaurants. We have one in the works: Em Que Viet at Hamline and Grand Avenue in St. Paul. I’m going to be the executive chef over there. My brother, cousin and son will own it, and I’ll help run the kitchen.
NEXT ON THE DISH