If you want a twist on traditional ice cream and bubble teas, or if you’re looking for a unique dessert experience in Fort Wayne, one place you can find it is at Bambu, a Vietnamese dessert restaurant that opened in December 2019 at 8812 Coldwater Rd.
Fort Wayne native Son Ngo brought the franchise to his hometown from his former residence in San Jose, Calif., where Bambu began in 2008 and captured the attention of the San Francisco Bay Area. Today, there are more than 70 Bambu Shoppes in 22 states and Canada, its website says.
Bambu offers limited seating indoors and benches outdoors.
So how did Fort Wayne get on the list? Ngo visited his hometown in December 2019 while he was still a California resident, and when he did, he noticed growth in the city that convinced him to return and raise his family here.
“It was exciting to see diverse, ethnic restaurants throughout Fort Wayne and especially the downtown area, as well as how the downtown area is more inviting to have people and families walk around the area,” he says.
Bambu is bringing Vietnamese drink called chè to Fort Wayne.
In addition to the growth Ngo saw in Fort Wayne, he also wanted to introduce the community to a “style of desserts that all Vietnamese people have grown up on” called chè, hence his decision to open Bambu.
Vietnamese chè dishes are sweet soups, beverages, puddings, or custard-like concoctions made with a base of water or coconut cream and mixed with various jellies and fruits, beans and pulses, rice and grains, or even cereals. They can be served hot or cold. Bambu’s menu offers 16 one-of-a-kind and 100 percent vegetarian chè drinks, as well as create-your-own options.
“Our chè is made to order using freshly cut coconut water or daily prepared coconut milk combined with select exotic, healthy and delicious ingredients,” Ngo says.
Bambu sells t-shirts and other gear.
While those familiar with traditional chè will appreciate Bambu, Ngo says there is a modern twist on a few of the ingredients in the company’s desserts, too, like pandan jelly, grass jelly, coffee jelly, boba, and rainbow jelly. These are used for additional textural differences.
In addition to chè, Bambu also prepares fresh fruit smoothies, fresh juices, Boba teas, yogurts, and coffee. Not thirsty? Bambu offers Mochi ice cream and green Vietnamese Pandan waffles, too.
A Taro Milk Tea and Pandan Waffle at Bambu.
Ngo’s shop is the first Bambu in Indiana. He says that before he opened Bambu, he couldn’t find chè at any other shops in the area. Ngo mentioned that to his knowledge, Bambu is the first shop in Fort Wayne—even Indiana—to serve fresh ché that is made to order. As a result, it has become a hotspot for Vietnamese residents, seeking a taste of their cultural heritage.
“What I enjoy most is witnessing how adventurous our customers are,” Ngo says. “Some customers have never heard of chè before, but are willing to give it try, and to their surprise, they quite enjoy it.”
You can order Bambu delivery on Grubhub.
When Ngo initially opened Bambu, he says business started out strong. But once the pandemic hit Fort Wayne in March 2020, Bambu closed their doors for three weeks. After receiving several messages from customers on social media, asking when they would open again, Ngo decided to try to reopen.
He says that although Bambu isn’t as busy as they were at the beginning, he feels blessed with all of the support from the community.
“We're doing everything we can to spread the word in hopes that people will be aware of what we provide and enjoy our authentic chè.”
Follow Bambu on Instagram and Facebook at @bambufortwayne.