Finding amazing food and charming cafes is one of my favorite things about traveling. In Vietnam, I was looking for cheap street food and noodles drowned in a variety of different broths. I was surprised in Ho Chi Minh City, when I also stumbled across amazing craft beer, hidden cafes and delicious egg coffee.
If you are traveling to Ho Chi Minh City, you will soon find the amount of restaurants to choose from is endless. There are a lot of places worth going to, but here is my list of the restaurants and cafes you absolutely have to go to when visiting this former Vietnam capital.
Mountain Retreat Restaurant
36 Le Loi Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1
I’m starting this post with the Mountain Retreat restaurant because it is the first place you should go in Saigon. Just go ahead and put it at the top of your list. It was the best meal I had in Ho Chi Minh City and close to the best meal I had in Vietnam. The only restaurant that rivals it is Ms. Vy’s Morning Glory in Hoi An.
This place has everything you would want for an amazing dining experience. Everything is perfect, from the decor and ambiance down to the optional outdoor patio. Not to mention the food is absolutely to die for and the prices are (although not exactly backpacker friendly), still very affordable.
What to order?
First, I recommend going with multiple people. There are so many things on the menu I wanted to try but with only two of us, we could only take on so much. (Side note: If I had found it sooner, I would have gone back for a second visit – something to consider if you’re a solo traveler).
What I did eat was the Chicken Salad in banana leaves, Fried Fish with mango sauce, Sticky Chicken wrapped in lotus leaves, and Spring Rolls with grilled pork. Everything was completely incredible and I couldn’t pick a favorite dish even if I tried.
The menu is in English and (even better) they have photos of their most popular dishes. So you’ll know exactly what you’re ordering! If you just make me one promise ever and keep it, tell me you’ll dine here while in Ho Chi Minh City, okay?
The Old Compass Cafe
63/11, Pasteur Level 3, Ben Nghe
This was by far my favorite hidden gem that I found in Saigon. And by hidden gem, I mean it’s hard to find. On the search for it, my friend and I actually walked passed it a few times. That was before we realized we had to go through an alley and up a few flights of stairs to get to it. However, it’s worth the effort to wind up lost in this place.
It’s the cutest cafe you would ever want to waste a day in.
With a quiet atmosphere and comfortable couch, it feels like someone’s living room. After talking to one of the owners, I found out it actually was. When Vietnam was still divided, an entire family lived in the 540 square foot space.
You could easily sit, sip coffee and work for hours in this laid back space.
What’s on the menu?
By day, you can order a healthy breakfast or light lunch with delicious coffee. It is the perfect environment to journal or get some work done. The staff is friendly and the owner spent some time talking to me and my friend about the neighborhood and the building while I drank my iced coffee.
By night it’s turns into a neighborhood bar with live events, dinner and wine.
I regret that I found this place on our last day in Ho Chi Minh City and did not get to experience the place at night. It will be the first thing I do when I go back. They host events like live music and talks as well as a daily walking tour. You can find information about all their upcoming events on their Facebook page.
Pasteur Street Brewing Company
144 Pasteur – In alley next to Rex Hotel
Another hidden gem that shouldn’t be missed on a trip to Ho Chi Minh City is Pasteur Street Brewing Co. This place is especially important if you appreciate craft beer as much as me and my best friend do.
As much as I loved the “bia hoi” that we were consuming daily, this was a refreshing change.
Yes this place has the feel of a craft beer bar somewhere in Brooklyn, but with none of the pretentiousness. And honestly, the beer is just really good. The brewers work on blending together traditional Vietnamese ingredients with an American craft beer style and the result is incredible.
Order every beer on the menu.
I stopped in just to have a drink or two with my friend and sat down at the bar. Once we both started reading the menu, we knew we were in for a much longer evening. We both tried about three different beers and with the potency of craft beer, we eventually decided to order some snacks to soak it up.
I sipped my beers and watched the place fill up around me. While the food was really good, it’s not the reason to come here. Just some typical American style bar food with a Vietnamese influence. But the beer is incredible and you’ll be hard pressed to find better quality in Southeast Asia.
The best beers to try? Definitely the Coffee Porter and Pineapple Bahn Mi-liner. Make sure to save room for two servings of the latter – it was my favorite.
Goc Ha Noi
165/3 Bui Vien Street, Pham Ngu Lao Ward
If you remember when I wrote about what to eat and drink in Hanoi, you’ll remember one of the best things about Vietnam’s capital is their famous egg coffee. I was seriously excited to find a place in Ho Chi Minh City that offered an authentic cup of this heavenly drink.
The cafe is located just down (shockingly) another tiny alley. So like most things in Vietnam it’s easy to walk right by it. I was surprised when I ended up there that the place had no line and plenty of empty tables. I sat and enjoyed two cups of egg coffee, knowing it was my last opportunity to get it before my trip ended.
If you aren’t able to make it all the way north, or if you just want one more taste of this delicious beverage before you go – you’ll want to make a stop here.