There were a lot of things about Hanoi that made me highly anticipate my trip there. Since it is mostly a raved about travel destination, I thought I would fall madly in love with it. Instead I found the busy and hostile streets of the old quarter unwelcoming.
It was nothing compared to the calm and charming streets of Hoi An.
But to say I didn’t like Hanoi wouldn’t be accurate. In spite of almost getting clipped by motorbikes daily, there were plenty of things I loved. The Huc Bridge over Hoan Kiem Lake is beautiful. The water puppet show is something you absolutely have to see.
But above all, you must eat all the spicy pho noodles and drink coffee by the gallon. Here’s my list of the best places to eat and drink in Hanoi.
13 Lo Duc, Hai Ba Trung District
If I can give you one piece of advice, do not leave Hanoi without trying Pho Thin noodles. This was hands down my favorite place to get pho. It definitely feels more like a local spot which made it that much more appealing. There’s only one thing on the menu and it’s the only thing you need to eat.
The broth is incredible. The balance of noodles, veggies and meat is perfect. But the best part is the garlic sautéed beef they serve. It gives this particular noodle dish just a little more flavor than all the other places I went to.
It is busy so be prepared to wait for a seat but it’s worth it. Experiment with all the sauces on the table and enjoy!
Bun Cha Huong Lien
24 Le Van Huu, Hanoi
I went to a lot of places I saw on episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown – especially in Hanoi. But this place was probably my favorite spot he went to. It is most famous for being the restaurant he went to with Obama. There are pictures on the wall from the episode so you’ll know if you’re in the right place.
I was surprised how easy it was to get a table (not that it wasn’t full, because it was). But I was expecting a wait and there wasn’t. I showed up and immediately sat down to order the “Combo Obama.” The pork meatball noodles (Bun cha) and a Hanoi Beer.
The dish was absolutely incredible. The broth had a sweet, tangy flavor that made it really stand out from the other dishes I tried. I can honestly say not every place is worth the tourist (or Anthony Bourdain) hype, but this place was!
Bahn Mi 25
25 Hang Ca Street, Hoan Kiem District
Being the budget traveler I am, I am always looking for the most delicious but cheap things to eat. Bahn Mi sandwiches in Vietnam have to be the best budget friendly food you can get while traveling, anywhere.
While the tastiest Bahn Mi sandwiches are absolutely in Hoi An, you can still find a good spot in the Vietnamese capital as well.
Bahn Mi 25 is a tiny little spot in the Hoan Kiem District of the Old Quarter that serves your favorite cheap and tasty Vietnamese sandwiches. I loved it so much, I went twice. It’s a really small spot, but the workers get creative with seating once it fills up so getting a place to sit is likely.
Plop down on a plastic chair on the side of the street and enjoy your sandwich or take it to go (like I did my second time around). Especially if you’re getting on a long overnight train to Ho Chi Minh City. These are absolutely the best Bahn Mi sandwiches in Hanoi and a great way to get a cheap bite.
Pho Gia Truyen
49 Bat Dan, Old Quarter
This is probably the most popular place to get a steaming bowl of beef pho in Hanoi. I had high expectations for this place, which is probably why I enjoy Pho Thin better. But Gia Tuyen is absolutely a place you should go at least once to enjoy a solid, traditional bowl of pho.
I believe simplicity is underrated (especially with food). As much as I can appreciate creativity and enjoy stepping out of my comfort zone sometimes, I lean towards simple. And I really enjoyed this place for it’s authentic dish of seasoned broth with beef, noodles and veggies.
Tip: Do not leave without getting a side of quay (the tasty fried breadsticks to dip in the broth). You can get quay many places but this place has the best. Also take note that it’s a happening spot with a lot of tourists. So be prepared to wait, but also have a delicious bowl of food.
Bun Oc Pho Co
Location: 36 Luong Ngoc Qyyen
This is one of the places I was looking forward to most from the Anthony Bourdain list I was armed with and it was the first restaurant I went to. I was dying to be a little adventurous and try the snail soup (Bun oc) that he starts off the episode with.
I’ll be honest, I liked this place more for the ambience than the food. I was almost unsure if I was in the right place when my friend and I were taken down a tiny dark alley to the back of the restaurant. I knew I was when I passed buckets of snails soaking in water. Me and my friend were taken to the seating area they have in the very back of the alley.
I sat down next to a group of women who were clearly on their lunch break from work and waited for my bowl of noodles and snails. I had never eaten snails before this, so it was pretty out there for me at the time. The broth had a tomato flavor to it and tasted much different than I anticipated.
Up until this point it was the most unconventional meal I had and in the oddest environment. If you want to feel a dining culture shock, I would suggest trying this place.
No. 39 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem Distri
Egg coffee is the true highlight of a trip to Hanoi. If you don’t go to Halong Bay and then consume as much of this amazing beverage as you can, you’ve done your trip to Hanoi all wrong. And hands down, the best place to get egg coffee is Giang Cafe.
If you’ve never heard of egg coffee, it is probably the only good thing that came out of the division of the country in 1954. Dealing with a dairy shortage in Northern Vietnam, eggs were whisked into coffee to replace milk and the outcome couldn’t be any sweeter.
This cafe has been serving the beloved coffee drink since 1946 and it would be tragic to not try a sip of this heavenly beverage at the place that created it.