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Where to Eat and Drink in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)

In recent years, Ho Chi Minh has become increasingly cosmopolitan and this is reflected in the large variety of Vietnamese and international food available. Prices though are a far cry from what they used to cost due to a combination of factors such as higher food prices, rising wages, and soaring real estate costs.

Vietnam Food
Street Food: Here’s the stall where i had my first real pork roll in Vietnam. So great to have your favourite food in its native country. There was plenty of action around the stall.
Photo by micz

Budget Choices

There are food stalls set up all over the city and you can find a good selection of them near the Ben Thanh market. Besides the authentic taste, it is also the local charm of eating in these food stalls that adds to the experience. If you would like to their local fast food, the most popular will be the Pho 24 chain. Clean modern chain found everywhere in Ho Chi Minh City serving excellent beef noodle soup at affordable prices.

Along Pham Ngu Lao there are many budget Western selections, and exploring further into the side alleys is always a good idea as they tend to be of better standards.

• Dong Ba, 110A Nguyen Du, Dist 1. This is a shop that sells food from the region of Hue including Hue beef noodles and traditional banh beo rice cakes.
• Pao restaurant & caffe, 158 Bui Vien, Dist 1. This newly opened restaurant has very unique decorations with small instruments, traditional dress, hats, of the minority ethnic group in North of Vietnam. Local Vietnamese fares like Spring rolls, Hot pot, Pho with reasonable price. They have live Vietnamese Instrument Show on every Friday, Sunday.
• Doner Kebab, 198 Bui Vien st., District 1. Situated in the backpacker area, you could easily find this small stall selling Turkish Kebab for 15,000D each.
• Dream Cones, 16 Nguyen Thi Nghia St., Ben Thanh Ward, Dist. 1. Nothing more satisfying than a Gelato ice cream for less than 16,000 dong a scoop when the heat gets to you. Nice quirky and cool neon atmosphere.
• Pho 2000, 3 locations, one sharing space with I Love Burger, one right next to Ben Thanh Market, and the last toward the end of Le Thanh Ton Street. Moment of fame arrived in the form of a visit from the ex-president of USA Bill Clinton. Has excellent pho (including a seafood version), along with the usual Vietnamese rice dishes, including a superb vegetarian curry.
• BanhMiBistro, 76 Vo Thi Sau, District 1, across from Le Van Tam park. Great tasting fresh gourmet sandwiches, especially the famous Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich. Bread is baked fresh in the store. There are 3 other outlets around town.
• Cafe Lam, 175 Bui Vien, District 1. Excellent restaurant in backpackers area. Huge portions with rock bottom prices. Value for money.

Mid-range Choices

• Black Cat 13 Phan Van Dat, D1, HCMC. Black Cat offers one of the best burgers around. Fresh and juicy beef patty. Try their jumbo burger at US$15 for an unforgettable burger experience.
• Barbecue Garden, 135A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia – Quan 1. HCMC Phone 8233340. Located 100 meters from Ben Thanh Market, behind the General Sciences Library. Specializing in BBQ recipes, the ambiance and music completes the total package of a delightful outing. The restaurant is an amazing place to have diner but also to have a drink (free wifi) during the day for a timeout.
• Chi Nghia, 53 Thu Khoa Huan, near Ben Thanh market. Small place specializing in Northern style Vietnamese cuisine. It’s run by the previous chef of Sofitel hotel, so her cooking and presentation is five star quality, but at affordable prices. Entrees are US$2-5. Very clean, and nicely decorated.
• Huong Dong, 68 Huynh Tinh Cua. A modest, open-air restaurant serving mostly southern country-style food. You might need a few beers though to muster the courage to try some of the more exotic dishes, including field mouse, whole frog, pigeon porridge, and coconut worm. A wide variety of other meats and seafood is available for the more conservative diners. Quirkly English translations of the long menu add to the attraction of the place.
• Lemongrass, 4 Nguyen Thiep Street. Near the Opera House.Vietnamese restaurant leaning on the touristy side. Most dishes are in US$4-6 range, although some seafood items are expensive; try the daily business lunch at US$3++.Opened another outlet on the 14th Floor of Palace Hotel Saigon, 10 minutes away from the first outlet. Same menu, same price.
• Quan An Ngon, 138 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street. A large and busy Vietnamese chain featuring regional specialties from around the country in the US$3-5 range. The place operates like independent food stalls in the premises. It’s set in an atmospheric old French villa across the street from the Reunification Palace.
• Quan Nuong, 29-31 Ton That Thiep. A delicious, reasonably-priced open-air barbecue restaurant on the roof above Fanny’s ice cream parlor and the Temple Club.Try the bacon wrapped salmon & the beef wrapped cheese skewers. They also serve a variety of mostly southern-style salads and noodle dishes. It’s very popular and often fills up by mid-evening.
• Sushi Bar, with two locations: corner of Le Thanh Ton and Ton Duc Thang in Q1, about six blocks northeast of the Opera House; and on the food-court floor of Zen Plaza on Nguyen Trai. Probably the best sushi around with an extensive range of sushi at value prices. Very popular, so be prepared to wait during the dining hours.
• Spice, 27c Le Quy Don in Q3. Authentic Thai food prepared by their two Thai chefs. In addition to a large selection of classics like Tom Yam Kung and Papaya Salad, they have interesting specials every week do ask the staff for details.
• The City Diner. Authentic 1950s style American Diner with 2 locations. 110 Ho Tung Mau, District 1, and 91 Nguyen Huu Canh, The Manor, Binh Thanh. Great Burgers, Salads, Sandwiches at reasonable prices. A fun atmosphere offering refillable coffee and free wi-fi make this restaurant a favorite with locals, expats and visitors alike. Ho tung Mau location open till late.

Splurge Choices

• Au Lac do Brazil, 238 Pasteur, between Dien Bien Phu and Vo Thi Sau. To remove all doubts that Saigon has everything, here is a Brazilian-style churrascaria (all-you-can-eat restaurant featuring barbecued meat), with live Latin music Tuesday to Saturday. They also have a new outlet in Sky Garden II, Phu My Hung, Dist 7. (Price $30+ per person)
• Co Ngu, on Pasteur just before Dien Bien Phu, Q1. Nice Vietnamese and Asian-fusion food in a Villa setting, with indoor and garden seating. Popular for business groups.
• La Habana, 6 Cao Ba Quat, Q1, two blocks northeast of the Hyatt and opera house. Authentic Spanish and Cuban-style food with a large tapas menu. Also one of the few places in Vietnam that makes really good cocktails.
• La Hosteria, on Le Thanh Ton a few blocks east of the Hilton. A gourmet Italian restaurant with excellent home-made pasta dishes and desserts.
• L’En tete, 1st floor, 139 Nguyen Thai Binh, Q.1 (at the junction with Calmette). Excellent French restaurant in an area not normally associated with fine dining. Great for a leisurely dining experience, good food with main courses ranging from 150000-450000 dong.
• Temple Club, 29-31 Ton That Thiep, Q.1 (ice cream parlour on first floor) recreates a 1930’s ambiance with separate bar, restaurant, and lounge area. The food is average but most people come to soak up the atmosphere.
• ZanZBar Restaurant & Bar 41 Dong Du Street, Q1 (diagonally opposite Sheraton Hotel) has modern casual-upscale feel with extensive range of international & Vietnamese cuisine (plenty for vegetarians to choose from too). Huge wine-by-glass & cocktail menu. Food is world class and generous in size. Very popular place at any time of the day. As dusk falls, the columns lit up to create a fantastic ambience.

Where to Have a Coffee

Coffee is just an integral part of the Vietnamese’s way of life as the pho. The Cà phê is very popular among the Vietnamese and they drink it many times a day. Being the world’s second largest exporter of coffee after Brazil, it is simply a paradise for coffee lovers.

Vietnam Food Typical Vietnamese Coffee
Typical Vietnamese Coffee
Photo by mengteck

The local style is strong and sweet; important words to remember are: sữa (sweetened condensed milk), đá (ice), and nóng (hot). Cà phê đá is strong, sweet iced coffee; and cà phê sữa đá is the same with condensed milk. The must try for all tourist is the Cà phê (sữa) nóng, freshly brewed in front of you, it’s served in a little metal cup with a sieve bottom and a second fliter base placed over a glass. This Brewer makes an adorable souvenir as well.

Espresso, cappuccino, and American-style filter coffee these days are also widely available in the tourist district, usually at twice the price of the local style.
• Gloria Jeans Cnr Dong Khoi and Nguyen Thiep (opposite the Sheraton). Popular Starbucks-style chain.
• Kem Café Popular local joint with excellent vibe. Pull up a plastic chair and sit on the pavement and a table will appear shortly. Most of the staff don’t speak English though so point to order.
• Cine Café 116 Nguyen Du, inside the Galaxy Cinema complex. Quiet ambiance with views of the park.
• Givral Café, Dong Khoi (opposite Continental Hotel). More in the French tradition, with fresh pastries, collared waiters and elaborate portions of ice cream. Well located, but over 20000 dong for the simplest cup.
• Highlands Coffee is an upscale, somewhat pricey chain serving Western-style as well as local-style brews in prime locations around the tourist district. They also serve food and pastries. Cappuccino costs above 30,000 dong, but the quality is disappointing.
• Cafe Napoly on Pham Ngoc Thach near the Turtle Pond. The decor is Roman-ruin-lite (they meant “Napoli”) but the menu is typical for an upscale Vietnamese cafe — coffee, fruit drinks, ice cream, and a simple food menu including eggs and rice dishes. Piped music is nice and prices are affordable. Houses three sections: an outdoor terrace in front, air-con section on the ground floor, and evening time lounge-bar on the upper floor. Next door is the louder, more trendy Cafe Nam Sao.
• Poppy Café , 217 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3. Modern lounge café where the specialty is fruit-topped natural frozen yogurt. The only café that serves this refreshing healthy treat. Creative fruit smoothies and light Vietnamese + Western fares also on menu. Free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and English-speaking staff.
• Trung Nguyen, The Vietnamese version of Starbucks with branches all over the city. There are plenty of variations including the infamous weasel coffee (cà phê chồn), made from coffee beans collected from civet excrement. Two convenient outlets are east side of Nguyen Hue right before City Hall, and corner of Thu Khoa Huan and Ly Tu Trong.

Filed Under: Ho Chi Minh

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