French cafe Le Vingt-Trois in Herndon is the owner’s dream come true

Exterior of Le Vingt-Trois Cafe & Bakery in Herndon (via Le Vingt-Trois Cafe & Bakery/Instagram)

A couple of days a week, Mary Achi gets up around three in the morning to bake tartes, baguettes, croissants, and other assorted pastries.

She’s the baker and owner of the French-inspired cafe and bakery Le Vingt-Trois that opened at the end of February at 311 Sunset Park Drive in Herndon.

“I’m an interior designer…and I renovated the whole place,” Achi told Reston Now. “Baking [has been] my hobby since a very young age. I merged these two things together and created my dream.”

Everything is baked in-house, and all the recipes are her own, from the sandwiches to the croissants to the tartes. A lot of the freshly-baked goodies can be found on the cafe’s Instagram.

“I’ve always loved French food,” Achi said. “I think it’s a very classical food, very simple but tasty at the same time.”

She’s completely self-taught, she says, and often had her husband try her new recipes.

“I tested all the food on my husband. He’s gained weight because of me,” Achi said, laughing.

Mary Achi opened Herndon's Le Vingt-Trois Cafe & Bakery in February (Photo courtesy of Mary Achi)
Mary Achi opened Herndon’s Le Vingt-Trois Cafe & Bakery in February (courtesy of Mary Achi)

The bakery’s name is also connected to Achi’s relationship with her spouse. “Le Vingt-Trois” translates to “The Twenty-Three” in French.

“That’s me and my husband’s lucky number,” she said.

Achi is from Australia but moved to Herndon in September. She had visited the town often because her husband’s family lives here, and Herndon’s charm drew her in.

“Every time I came here, I just fell in love more and more with this area and all of Virginia,” she said. “The people are very nice and supportive. That’s why I love it here.”

Le Vingt-Trois opened in the late winter, when COVID-19 restrictions were still in effect.

While it was a risky move, business has been going “pretty well.” Achi anticipates it will tick up even further with the bakery opening on Saturdays starting this week.

Banana & cinnamon cake from Le Vingt-Trois Cafe & Bakery (via Le Vingt-Trois Cafe & Bakery/Instagram)

Achi says people thought she was “crazy” for opening during the pandemic, but now, with vaccinations on the rise and restrictions relaxed, both customers and even other businesses are thanking her.

“Once I opened, people started coming to thank me…for helping things get back to normal,” Achi said. “Also, other businesses that closed during the pandemic thanked me because I influenced them to reopen again.”

The cafe is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, and afternoon coffee.

When coming in for the first time, Achi recommends a few menu items but highly vouches for one in particular.

“Our apricot tarte is the top seller. Also, croissants and the chicken avocado sandwich [sell] well,” she said. “But the Jambon Beurre is to die for.”

While the days can be very early and the work hard, for Achi, it’s all a hundred percent worth it.

I’ve always dreamed of opening my own cafe and having it where people can sit down, chat, listen to very calm music, and feel relaxed,” Achi said. “And sell my own recipes….this is that exactly.”

Photo via Le Vingt-Trois Cafe & Bakery/Instagram

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