Restaurants in District 1
Conveniently located on Lam Son Square near the Caravelle Hotel, in a secluded courtyard beside a German-style brewhouse, this casual coffeehouse (still referred to as the ç) serves the best lattes in town.
With a prime position above Le Thanh Ton, one of Saigon’s premier shopping streets, this irrepressibly cute tearoom with grandmother’s-parlor décor and tasty cakes and cappuccinos is a huge hit, especially with Japanese tourists.
In Vietnam, restaurants with incandescent lighting generally serve dull food, while fluorescent-lit joints with toilet-paper dispensers for napkins turn out the tastiest cooking.
For 13 years, Monday through Saturday, the Lunch Lady has set up shop on a patch of pavement on Hoang Sa Street near the zoo—working from 11 a.m. until she runs out of food, which happens quickly.
Open 24 hours and usually packed for nearly all of them, Nhu Lan is one of the city’s most accomplished bakeries—but the real draw are the banh mi thit paté.
A Ho Chi Minh City institution, Quan An Ngon employs ex-street vendors, who prepare a selection of traditional, regional fare.
Americans have gone crazy for this ingenious French-Vietnamese sandwich, but you haven’t really tasted banh mi until you’ve tracked down the venerated Gai Banh Mi cart in Ho Chi Minh City’s First District.
The concept behind this attractive, open-air restaurant is brilliant: the owner recruited several dozen of the city’s most popular street-food vendors to ply their trade under one roof.
This rough-and-tumble joint with metal tables and plastic chairs serves the very best crab in town.
Just yards from Reunification Palace, this airy café makes an agreeable stop for breakfast, lunch, or a simple snack and coffee, especially on hot afternoons.
At this open-air barbecue-and-beer garden, patrons grill strips of tangy marinated beef—bo tung xeo—on tabletop braziers and share pitchers of foamy local beer. The kitchen also dishes up specialties like deep-fried scorpion, bonded chicken feet, and fried pig’s stomach.
A spin-off of the trendy Xu restaurant down the block, this upmarket fast-food joint specializes in bun bo Hue, the spicy noodle soup customarily found at humble sidewalk stalls across Vietnam.
Into an outsize wok the chef tosses a fistful of bean sprouts, pork, shrimp, and/or mushrooms, then pours in a slick of marigold-yellow batter, rich with coconut milk. The resulting crêpe is the size of a Monopoly board—so large it overwhelms the table, let alone the plate.
Pho, Vietnam’s national dish—a rich beef consommé spiked with clove, star anise, and ginger and laced with noodles and fresh basil and cilantro—gets the fast-food treatment at this popular chain, with surprisingly inspired results. Follow the Vietnamese and go for breakfast.
This cool Mexican bar-restaurant—owned by several members of the design collective from Gaya, just up the block—has quickly become an expat favorite for its mean margaritas, micheladas, and tacos al pastor.