Whether you’re a local, expat, or foreigner visiting, everyone knows Bui Vien street. We bring friends there who are visiting Ho Chi Minh City for the first time, probably have too much to drink, and get into some late-night shenanigans. What many people, that aren’t regulars walking this bustling street, may not know is that Bui Vien is kind of blowing up. There are some fantastic places that are helping to make this electric “party street” into a food and beverage destination spot. This month we wanted to highlight some of the best locations to grab a bite and a beer, or two. Photo by Vinh Dao.
Home of Phat Rooster beers, this unassuming, hole-in-the-wall dive bar offers an unpretentious, no-nonsense place to sink an above average craft beer at a below average price.
As Phat Rooster’s unofficial tap room, they have a choice of 6 craft beers, including Saigon Blonde, a refreshingly drinkable session beer, and their Phat Shiv, a 7% ABV German beer with a flowery aroma and a distinct hint of berries.
Owned and run as a family business, expect to see the owners’ child and young relatives interacting with customers as they enjoy their food or beer. Managed by Don, a Chicago native who understands the meaning of customer service, the staff are friendly and welcoming. If you’re not sure what beer to order, Don will knowledgeably talk you through what they have on tap.
As well as some of the best craft beer in town, the food is creating a buzz in the local community too, especially the chicken wings. Made with organically raised chickens from the family farm, they are much larger than the average Vietnamese chicken and lightly coated in a unique blend of herbs and spices. Some say they’re the best in town. Give them a try and decide for yourself.
28/2 Do Quang Dau, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Nestled down the far end of Bui Vien between Do Quang Dao and Cong Quynh, Five Oysters restaurant is an oasis of calm among the madness of the tourist strip. With a reputation for serving up the best Vietnamese food on the street, the restaurant has become a favourite among expats, locals and tourists.
We caught up with Ho Quang Man, the restaurant’s owner, who explained that the secret to his success is a focus on his customers. “We serve 100% authentic Vietnamese food because it’s important to share the real Vietnam with tourists who visit. It all comes back to loving your customer.”
“Vietnamese food is one of the greatest attractions of the country and its culture,” Ho says. “We do our best to introduce tourists and expats to the authentic tastes of Vietnam in an environment that is calm and relaxing. The cooks understand the different eating styles of locals and foreigners and have designed a menu that caters for both, while remaining true to the authenticity of Vietnamese cuisine.”
Understanding the changing tastes of tourists can be a challenge, but the restaurant is full most nights, with customers soaking up the ambience and enjoying their food. Five Oysters is unique on this street, combining service, food and atmosphere to produce something special in the rowdiest part of town.
234 Bui Vien, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Despite opening little over 2 months ago, Ong Cao earns its place in Bui Vien’s Top 5 as the street’s first craft beer tap room, with beers from 7 of the city’s brewers. They serve decent food too.
Opened by Jeremy and May, a Vietnamese couple with French origins, the goal was for a beer bar with a distinct French bistro feel. Somewhere welcoming, where locals could relax, drink a beer, snack on cold cuts, and nhau.
Located at the far end of Bui Vien in a building that has been in the family for 70 years, the bar’s decor combines vintage classic design with a modern, hip ambience. Home-fashioned wood tables are set against black and white walls covered with graffiti from Vietnam’s first generation of graffiti artists. It all combines to develop a distinct and welcoming environment, appealing to mixed generations of beer drinkers.
Beers on tap include Phat Rooster, Pasteur, Platinum, Heart of Darkness, East West and Te Te, served in the brewers’ own glasses and ranging from VND40,000 to VND85,000. The food has a distinctly French vibe to it, with choices such as rillette and moules frites cooked in beer. Jeremy is an experienced brewer and will soon be adding his own creations to the menu.
240 Bui Vien, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Down an alley way on Do Quang Dao, opposite Chicken Coop, is a small, hole-in-the-wall cafe restaurant that brings a bit of New York cuisine to Saigon. Boiled and baked bagels, with a soft crust and a chewy interior, toasted for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They’re delicious. These guys are the experts of bagels.
I met up with Andrew Fitanides, owner of Saigon Bagel, with his wife, Tran, who creates the magic in the kitchen. They explained to me about the New York bagel brunch culture that they hope to bring to Saigon. Like NYC, Saigon is a party town, and Sunday morning should be spent chilling with friends with a dozen bagels, and a newspaper to read.
As with most home-produced food, the bagels are made with a passion that is evident with the eating. The batter is mixed and left to rest for 16 hours, then boiled with honey and set to rest again at room temperature. They are then topped with poppy seeds, or onion, and a host of other toppings, and baked in a pizza- style oven.
What you spread on your bagel is up to you, with a choice of traditional or locally-flavoured spreads and toppings. Choose between sweet or savoury, with homemade jams from local fruits, cured salmon gravlax, salmon and cream cheese schmears, home-pickled herrings or just plain with butter. You truly can’t go wrong.
27 / 4 Do Quang Dau, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Sancho’s Craft Beer & Mexican Kitchen
No “Top 5 locations on Bui Vien” list would be complete without a mention of Sancho’s Cantina. Located at the far end of the strip, this small craft beer bar with a popular outside terrace has built itself a well-deserved reputation for serving up the best Mexi-Cali food in all of Saigon, with legit margaritas and a cast of Phat Rooster beers to help wash it all down.
The food is seriously good here, with a reputation for over-sized portions that can be a struggle to finish. Their burritos weigh in at 1.5 kilos and are served “Sancho Style” upon request. Easily enough for two people. The Godzilla tacos, a soft flour tortilla wrapped with cheese around a hard taco shell, stuffed full of meat and vegetables needs to be tried. Don’t go expecting Tex-Mex, this is Mexi-Cali and it won’t disappoint.
Sancho’s vision is simple: put your soul into what you do. Whatever it is, do it with love. And the proof in the pudding, or the burrito, is very much in the eating. The staff are attentive and friendly and the vibe is welcoming and relaxed. If you’re a first-time guest, don’t be surprised if the owner, Calvin, joins you for a tequila shot.
207 Bui Vien, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City