Dana Filek-Gibson uncovers the city’s best-kept happy hour secrets by forcing everyone to drink with her. Photos by Vinh Dao.
Years ago, eking out a miserable existence on the east coast of the United States, I was forced to live in a Puritanical state which did not believe in happy hour. The skies were grey, the days were long and every single drink you purchased was full price. It was hell.
While I have since managed to escape from a life of such hardship, Saigon’s overabundance of drink deals sometimes means that finding a happy hour spot worth its salt can be tough. We’ve all sat down for an after-work drink only to find that the place is too crowded, the drinks too expensive or worse – the bartender has only managed to put half the alcohol in your half-price beverage. A handful of old favourites divide many of Saigon’s happy hour goers – Xu Bar, for instance, is a venue both loved and hated throughout the city. For a change of scenery without sacrificing your beloved happy hour discount, head to these five watering holes and unwind after a long day’s work.
12-14 Mac Thi Buoi, D1 // 5pm – 7.30pm
For a trendier, candlelit happy hour at the end of the day, Racha Room provides swank without being overpriced. Half-price signature cocktails, house wine and Asahi, Singha and Saigon beers are on offer from 5pm to 7.30pm every day. Racha’s strength is its mixed drinks, which include the cool Concubine, a blend of St Germain Elderflower liqueur, lychee, lime juice and fresh cucumber, as well as the Hot & Stormy, a concoction which includes dark rum, sugarcane juice, maple syrup, ginger beer and chilli for a spicy kick. During happy hour, these run around VND 70,000 apiece. The bar also has a food menu available and its low-lit, chic barroom doesn’t get busy until the later hours.
167 Hai Ba Trung, D1 // 5.30pm – 8pm Mon to Fri
High above the downtown bustle, Novotel’s Ontop Bar manages to combine rooftop drinking with a casual ambiance devoid of the pretense often associated with hotel watering holes. On weekdays from 5.30pm to 8pm, the bar serves half-price drinks by the glass, both alcoholic and otherwise, with cocktails coming in around VND 75,000. Ontop’s menu includes an array of cocktails as well as an entire page dedicated to martinis of all varieties. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also on offer as is both indoor and outdoor seating. To make you even happier, there are also rotating daily specials from 8pm to 10pm, including all-you-can-drink martini Mondays, Mojito Madness and a free flow beer night.
6 Cao Ba Quat, D1 // 4pm – 7pm Mon to Sat, 12pm – 8pm Sun
In a city of cocktail lounges and beer bars, La Habana adds something different to the mix with its Latin flair. Beyond the colourful paintings and fairy lights, this downtown spot organises live music every evening as well as regular salsa nights. During happy hour, which runs from 4pm to 7pm Monday to Saturday, all Tiger draught, house wines, cocktails and mixed drinks are half price. The same promotion runs from 12pm to 8pm on Sunday.
Duc Vuong Hotel // 195 Bui Vien, D1 // 10am – 6pm
One of the city’s most affordable rooftop bars, this open-air terrace rises well above its backpacker bar competition, both thanks to the view and the happy hour drinks. From 10am to 6pm everyday, business hours are also happy hours at The View, where you’ll get two-for-one Long Island Iced Tea. At VND 99,000 for the pair, this is a good deal, especially when you take into account the heavy pour on the part of the bartender. Throw in The View’s fun atmosphere, decked out in neon lights and lanterns, and a clear line of sight toward the Bitexco and you’ve got yourself a great afternoon drinking spot.
74A3 Hai Ba Trung, D1 // 3pm – 7pm
For those who’d prefer to skip the cocktails, O’Brien’s Irish pub makes for a more laid-back setting than others on this list. Blessed with a top-notch pool table upstairs and regulary featuring live music, the rustic bar slings Tiger draught for VND 35,000 from 3pm to 7pm everyday. You’ll also find other foreign brews like Guinness here as well as foreign sports channels.