A Phu Nhuan District taqueria spices up Saigon with fresh, original tacos and a leisurely outdoor space. By Ruben Luong. Photos by Fred Wissink.
Authentic surf boards, a hammock and tyre swing, lawn chairs, and summery splashes of lime green, yellow, and teal decor resemble a best friend’s backyard potluck, making Beach Bums, a new outdoor taco lounge in Phu Nhuan District, a mellow hangout. Real sand blends in with a scenic beach and a retro Volkswagen camper van painted on the walls. Freshly landscaped grass invites customers to mingle.
Vietnamese owner Annie Ho, who spent her high school years in sunny Florida, got the idea from her surfer boyfriend. While she knows it’ll take time for locals to get accustomed to tacos, she hopes the menu will be relished among expats.
Annie changes the taco selections every two weeks. Customers can order the combo (one taco, one side, and one drink) for VND 60,000. À la carte, tacos are VND 45,000-VND 55,000. Comfort sides, like mac and cheese, are VND 20,000.
Each taco has a different meat served in special, homemade tortillas. Our tacos were prepared with soft jalapeño and cheese tortillas (the week before, they were wasabi-flavoured). Ready to dig in, we grabbed the restaurant’s mammoth jar of Tapatia hot sauce.
First, we had the jerk chicken taco (VND 45,000). The Jamaican jerk marinade was mouth watering, appropriate for enjoying outdoors. The taco had a familiar, homegrown taste. It wasn’t long before we scarfed down our next taco, the jalapeño and honey shrimp (VND 50,000), which was just as appetising as it sounds. There was no skimping on the shrimp. Lime and chilli powder made the taco addictive.
But, the most surprising and savoured taco was our last, the steak and pear (VND 55,000). The steak was prepared using coffee for added tenderness. The taste of coffee was subtle and the slices of sweet pear were an inviting and crunchy counterpart to the soft steak.
Our side of chilli cheese fries (VND 20,000), cooked with Saigon Red, was a hearty and indulgent plate of potato and taro fries. It was big enough to be a meal, but better as a shared snack.
A can of beer (VND 20,000) is tempting with tacos, but don’t hesitate to try the minty lemonade, a tangy fusion of lemon, kumquat, mint and thyme leaves that quickly cools you down from all the spices. It’s just one more sunny delight to add to the experience.