The Expat’s Guide To Eating In Saigon

If you’re headed to Saigon as a tourist or an expat, I’m sure you’re wondering what the city’s food scene is like. Let me assure you: it’s amazing! But it can be tough to navigate, especially for newcomers. As someone who lived and worked there for most of 2019, I want to share some of my favorite dishes and restaurants I discovered in Saigon (also known as Ho Chi Minh City or HCMC).

This post is an expat’s food guide, which means it will feature a mix of authentic Vietnamese options as well as western restaurants. Vietnamese food is delicious, but let’s be real: if you’re living in HCMC long-term, you’re eventually going to crave pizza or burgers, and I’ve got you covered! After that, I mention some of my favorite bars and cafes. To skip to any of the sections below, click or tap the corresponding link!

  1. Vietnamese Classics
    1. Phở
    2. Bún thịt nướng
    3. Cơm tấm
    4. Hủ tiếu mì
    5. Bún chả
    6. Gỏi cuốn (spring rolls)
  2. Foreign Treats
    1. Burgers with a view
    2. Fried chicken
    3. Mexican recommendations
    4. Dim Sum
    5. Indian
    6. Pizza
    7. The Deck Saigon
    8. Bến Thành Street Food Market
  3. My Favorite Bars
    1. Layla – Eatery & Bar
    2. Hen House Craft Beer Bar
    3. East West Brewing Co.
    4. Lac Brewing Co.
    5. The View Rooftop Bar
    6. AIR Saigon (formerly ‘Air 360 Sky Lounge’)
    7. Rogue Saigon
  4. Where to Caffeinate
    1. The Coffee House
    2. Highlands Coffee
    3. Other mentions

Vietnamese Classics

Let’s start off with some quintessential Vietnamese dishes. While this is by no means a complete list, these quick and cheap eats were some of my favorites that I would have a couple times a week.

Phở

The world famous noodle soup known as phở was indeed a staple of my diet in Saigon. It’s slightly different from the variety you’ll find abroad, but taste it for yourself and see what you think.

While I made an effort to try as many phở restaurants as I could, I found myself going to one over and over again called Phở Lệ (website and Facebook page). At 70,000 VND (approx. 3 USD) per bowl, this place wasn’t the cheapest, but it was consistently delicious. They have two different locations: one in District 3 and one in District 5. The latter happened to be a short walk from my apartment, and they were always open late. An English menu is available for those who need it. If you’re nearby, give it a try!

Bún thịt nướng

This noodle-based dish is a meal I could never tire of. It’s a colorful mix of rice noodles, grilled sliced meat, a fried egg roll cut into pieces, shredded veggies, mint, a sweet and sour sauce, and chili paste. Bún thịt nướng exemplifies everything amazing about Vietnamese food, with each bite encompassing a full range of flavors and textures.

My favorite place to get bún thịt nướng was a street vendor near the War Remnants Museum. She always set up her booth right around this location and would be there during lunchtime on weekdays. She may not stay there forever, but as far as I know, she never moved spots the entire time I lived in Saigon.

My favorite bún thịt nướng​ vendor!
Parents trying bún thịt nướng​ in Saigon

Cơm tấm

I was surprised to learn that Saigonese cuisine was less rice-based than, say, Japanese or Chinese food. I actually found myself craving it at times. That’s when I would go out and get a plate of cơm tấm. “Cơm tấm” literally means ‘broken rice,’ referring to the fact that it’s a bit more dry than other types of rice, so the individual grains don’t really stick together.

Cơm tấm is usually served with egg, a simple vegetable, some type of meat, and a sauce that can be used for dipping or pouring over the plate. When you order it, you’ll usually get to choose which toppings you want.

Hủ tiếu mì

What Vietnamese food lacks in rice dishes, it more than makes up for with its large variety of noodles. Hủ tiếu mì is a perfect example of that: the name of the dish refers to two different types mixed together. Hủ tiếu are long, flat, and stretchy noodles that absorb any sauce they come in contact with. Mì are much thinner and curly, looking sort of like instant ramen. Put both into a wok with some marinated beef, green leafy veggies, an egg, soy sauce, and tương ớt (spicy sauce), and you’ve got one delicious lunch or dinner!

Bún chả

This dish is a delicacy from Northern Vietnam, so if Hanoi is on your Vietnam itinerary, you might as well get it from the source. If not, you should definitely get it in Saigon! It’s one of my favorite dishes, basically made up of rice noodles and herbs that are dipped into a bowl of broth with meat. It’s a lot lighter than phở and the soup has a different flavor, so don’t pass up one even if you didn’t love the other!

My go-to place to get bún chả is Quán bún chả Hồ Gươm, located here (although I believe they have a few other locations). It’s a popular meal though, so you should never be too far from a shop serving it.

Gỏi cuốn (spring rolls)

Fresh spring rolls are one of my favorite snacks in Vietnam, partly because they’re so cheap! A single roll can be as low as 6,000 or 7,000 VND (approx. 0.30 USD) and generally comes with a brown peanut dipping sauce.

A woman selling gỏi cuốn in District 3

Final Thoughts on Local Food in Saigon

Street food is an integral part of life in HCMC, and you might as well embrace it. Locals and expats alike find the best vendors around their homes and workplaces, becoming valued regular customers. It was always nice to wave hello to the local noodle lady or coffee shop owner (even if you just happened to be passing by without ordering anything). I really enjoyed that aspect of eating locally in HCMC.

If you need some more ideas for local meals, consider trying bún bò Huế (another soup dish from the region of Huế in Central Vietnam), bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich), mì Quảng (yet another noodle dish), or bánh xèo (a shrimp and egg omelette-crepe). I lived in District 5, which is the city’s Chinatown. That was a great area for hole-in-the-wall restaurants, although District 5 is a little further out from where most tourists stay. Have fun and I’m sure you’ll find some gems of your own!

Foreign Treats

Saigon has a vibrant international food scene, which is one of the many reasons it’s a comfortable place for expats. While the choices are numerous, individual restaurants can definitely be a hit-or-miss. Here are some of the western places I like most.

Burgers: Rogue Saigon

Address: 13 Pasteur (Floors 2+), Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.facebook.com/roguesaigon/

Rogue is actually a rooftop bar in District 1, but what I liked most about it was their delicious burgers! Really good ones are somewhat hard to come by in Ho Chi Minh City, so Rogue was a good find. They serve other American bar food as well.

Fried Chicken: Texas Chicken

Address: multiple locations
Website: https://www.facebook.com/TexaschickenVN/

I feel a little odd including this one in here, because as far as I can tell Texas Chicken is just an international fast food chain with ties to Church’s Chicken (which I’ve never had the chance to try in the US). Nonetheless, it was honestly my favorite place to get fried chicken in Ho Chi Minh City. The food was always served hot and fresh with tons of flavor; it was just consistently satisfying. Do you have Texas Chicken in your home country?

Mexican: Gringo Tacos and The Taco Stand

Since I lived in Mexico before moving to Vietnam, I had fingers crossed hoping that I might find some good ‘comida mexicana’ in Saigon. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, choices are pretty limited. With that said, the following two places are worth mentioning.

Gringo Tacos

Address: 137 Calmette, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.facebook.com/gringotacos1/

Gringo Tacos was opened by an American who was unsatisfied with the lack of good Mexican restaurants in Saigon. I, for one, am glad he did! The food at Gringo Tacos is delicious, and they definitely make an effort to get authentic (i.e. probably imported) ingredients like tortillas. My favorite dish here is their chimichangas topped with a surprisingly legit mole sauce.

The Taco Stand

Address: 12 bui vien #14, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.facebook.com/TACOSTANDSAIGON/

The other good Mexican place I found is called The Taco Stand. It’s somewhat hidden on the upper level in an alleyway near Bùi Viên, but they have a sign on the street to help you find it. The tacos are mouth-watering, especially with their unique grilled cheese.

There’s one other Mexican restaurant in Saigon you might come across called Rico Taco. I went twice and was not a fan either time. I found that it tasted more like Vietnamese-Mexican fusion (and not in a good way). I definitely recommend Gringo Tacos and The Taco Stand instead.

Dim Sum: Baoz Dimsum

Address: 86-88 Nguyễn Tri Phương, Phường 7, Quận 5, Hồ Chí Minh OR 190 Hồng Bàng, Phường 15, Quận 5, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://baozdimsum.com/

I am a huge fan of dim sum, so it was nice to find a restaurant specializing in it in Ho Chi Minh City. Staples did taste slightly different from what I’ve had in Hong Kong (or even cities like New York or Seattle), but overall it was a fairly standard experience.

Indian: Shanti Indian Cuisine

Address: 371c Phạm Ngũ Lão, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.facebook.com/shantivietnam/

Ho Chi Minh City has a surprising number of good Indian restaurants, especially on and around the famous Bùi Viên walking street. While I liked most of the ones I tried, my favorite place was definitely Shanti Indian Cuisine.

They make an excellent thali (multiple small dishes served on a large metal tray with rice) that has both vegetarian and meat-based options. The price is also pretty good for how much food you get. However, they also have other standard options on their menu such as curries and Indian rice dishes.

Pizza: Pizza 4P's and Italiani's Pizza

Saigon has no shortage of pizza restaurants, but most aren’t very noteworthy. In contrast, the two mentioned below are my favorites.

Pizza 4P's

Address: multiple locations
Website: https://pizza4ps.com/

Without a doubt, Pizza 4P’s is Saigon’s best pizzeria. The menu is extensive with lots of creative offerings, including different pastas and salads. It’s also a bit pricey, especially with appetizers and drinks. But if you’re going to splurge, this is the place to do it. You can add their signature burrata cheese to any pizza you want (shown in the center of the margherita pizza pictured below).

Italiani's Pizza​

Address: 290 Ly Tu Trong, Phuong Ben Thanh, Quan 1, Ho Chi Minh, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: http://italianispizza.com/

Delicious pizza, a casual atmosphere, friendly staff, and a great location are all reasons to try Italiani’s. Like Pizza 4P’s, Italiani’s makes a delicious thin-crust pizza. (A lot of other places in Saigon either serve pizza that’s way too thick and doughy or too thin, which just ends up tasting like a baked cracker with tomato sauce and cheese.) Italiani’s pizza goes well with a local craft beer.

The Deck Saigon

Address: 38 Nguyễn Ư Dĩ, St, Quận 2, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.thedecksaigon.com/

This restaurant was the most high-end dining experience I had in my nine months of living in HCMC, and it was also the most expensive. However, if you want a truly luxurious meal, this is the place to be.

The Deck Saigon seamlessly combines French- and Vietnamese-inspired dishes to create an honestly unique and refreshing dining experience. They’re able to do what most fusion restaurants can’t, and I enjoyed trying everything we ordered.

While The Deck Saigon does offer waterfront tables, they don’t feature the city skyline. The restaurant is located in District 2, so I recommend booking a reservation and giving yourself ample time to get there from District 1 or 3 if that’s where you’re coming from.

Bến Thành Street Food Market

Address: 26-28-30 Thủ Khoa Huân, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.facebook.com/BenThanhstreetfoodmarket/

I mentioned this food court in my comprehensive guide to Saigon because of its proximity to the massive gift and clothing market of the same name. Bến Thành Street Food Market has dozens of stalls that together offer a complete range of international cuisine (including Vietnamese dishes). It’s definitely meant for tourists, but I always enjoyed coming here every once in a while.

My Favorite Bars

Ho Chi Minh City has no shortage of bars and breweries for any budget and occasion. In fact, no other city I’ve been to or lived in has cheaper drinks! The following are some of my most highly recommended.

Layla - Eatery & Bar

Address: Second floor, 63 Đông Du, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.facebook.com/LaylaEateryandBarHCM

Layla is quite simply my favorite bar in the city. Located on the upper floor of a building across from the Sheraton Hotel in District 1, this bar is the perfect mix of classy and casual. Their cocktail recipes are unique and legitimately delicious. Case in point: I’ve never been a fan of gin and tonics until I had one at Layla that actually tasted good. I’ve liked every cocktail I tried at Layla.

Layla can get quite busy during peak hours, so I recommend going during the late afternoon. Happy hour is another good idea; prices here are definitely on the higher side.

Hen House Craft Beer Bar

Address: 285 Phạm Ngũ Lão, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.facebook.com/henhousevn

Although Hen House is one street over from the crazy bars and booming clubs on Bùi Viên, it’s way more casual and relaxed. They sell Rooster Beers with a nice variety of brews from light to dark. Their prices are also quite good for craft beer on tap. If you’re feeling hungry, they also have some Vietnamese-inspired fast food.

East West Brewing Co.

Address: 181 Lý Tự Trọng, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: http://www.eastwestbrewingcompany.com/

This brewery with a huge dining room is another good option for beer fans. I particularly liked their Saigon Rosé, which is sold at many restaurants around town. Get a flight to try four of beers on tap.

Lac Brewing Co.

Address: none
Website: https://www.lacbrewing.com/

I’m sad to say that this brewery closed right after I left Saigon! Nonetheless, I want to include it here even though they have no physical store right now because you can still pick up some of their delicious craft beers elsewhere around the city. I reached out to them on Facebook and was told that “you can still get our products at Urban Basement nearby or other outlets such as Malt, B3 Steakhouse, BiaCraft, [etc.]”

The View Rooftop Bar

Address: 195 Bùi Viện, Phường Phạm Ngũ Lão, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.facebook.com/TheViewRooftopBar/

This is my second favorite rooftop bar in Saigon (after AIR Saigon, discussed below). Although you can’t see the skyline as well from here, I like their interior design, which features a ton of lanterns and festive hanging lights. The drinks are fine but not outstanding. If you want to feel like you’re in the middle of everything on Bùi Viên without having to deal with all the commotion on street level, The View is a great place.

AIR Saigon (formerly 'Air 360 Sky Lounge')

Address: Rooftop 22nd Floor, Ben Thanh Tower 136 – 138 Le Thi Hong Gam, District 1 Ho Chi Minh City
Website: http://airsaigon.vn/assets/cache/all/index.html

This rooftop bar was mentioned in my complete guide to Saigon because it’s my favorite place to see the city skyline. In addition to that, they also offer some tasty (i.e. fruity) mixed drinks at reasonable prices. Go check it out!

Rogue Saigon

Address: 13 Pasteur (Floors 2+), Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh
Website: https://www.facebook.com/roguesaigon/

Mentioned above for their delicious burgers, Rogue is also worth mentioning as a nice rooftop bar. The drinks are good, and while the view may not be as grand as what you’ll see from The View or AIR Saigon, it’s in a quiet little corner of District 1 with its own unique charm.

Cafes

If you’re a coffee addict like I am, Ho Chi Minh City will be your happy place! Learn about two major coffee chains in the city, plus other options below.

The Coffee House

This cafe with locations all over the city was my favorite place to settle in for a while and be online. Many of my blog posts were drafted while I was sipping on cà phê sữa đá (Vietnamese iced coffee) in The Coffee House! They also make a really good hot latte, pictured below.

Highlands Coffee

This is the other major coffee chain in Saigon, and their prices are basically identical to those of The Coffee House. Cà phê sữa đá here tends to be a little more rich and sweet, and they also have delicious pastries.

Other Mentions

Coffee fanatics should try some other cafes beyond the two listed above. Sometimes, the best coffee can be found in the most unassuming places, including hole-in-the-wall operations. The sheer density of coffee shops in Saigon is unlike any other city I’ve been to (and I’m from Seattle). Coffee is a defining feature of life in Vietnam, so be sure to branch out and try some new places!

Feeling Hungry Yet?

Whether you’re visiting Saigon for a few days or planning to move there long-term, get ready for a culinary adventure! If you’ve just started researching the area and need more info on things to do, check out my comprehensive guide to Saigon! I share all the city’s best attractions in that separate post so that you can plan the perfect trip.

Have you tried any of the foods or restaurants mentioned above? Got any favorites that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below! I hope this guide has helped jumpstart some ideas and inspired you to try some new dishes in Ho Chi Minh City!

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This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Ada

    Um, yummmmm! This is a great round-up of delicious food. I love that you broke it down by dishes so you can find the very best of whatever you happen to be craving.

  2. Jackie

    Yes, I am totally feeling hungry now! You’ve described so many delicious dishes in Ho Chi Minh City, and every one of them looked wonderful to me. Personally, I am partial to phở and spring rolls, but the Bún thịt nướng really caught my eye as a smorgasbord I would gladly devour. (I’m happy you also included coffee stops…I am a caffein addict myself.)

  3. Snazzytrips

    Wow, my mouth is watering! You certainly have put together a very comprehensive food guide to HCMC and it looks so good. The cocktails at Layla Bar look very yummy too.

  4. April Key C. Rode

    Omg, Kevin you are making me hungry! Lol. All I did is my shake for lunch! Hahaha… We love Pho too and we can eat it a couple times in a week. The friend and fresh spring rolls are delicious. Other thing you didn’t mentioned here is their spicy squid. I love the seasoning and how they prepare it.

  5. backpackandsnorkel

    This is very timely as I am preparing for a trip to Vietnam. And yes, I feel hungry already. 🙂

  6. The.Holidaymaker

    If I was going, I would try some of the traditional dishes. Forget the North American classics! I like you, enjoy dim sum, and this looked good. Good to know the spring rolls are so inexpensive.

  7. josypheen

    OMG Kevin, this all looks amaaaazing! I had no idea Ho Chi Minh City had so much variety! I am in love with the look of the Bún thịt nướng. Those noodles look fantastic!

  8. Now I’m hungry and want to return to Vietnam. I love Vietnamese food so much, but it is so hard to get authentic dishes in Germany. Guess this means I should return to Vietnam asap!

  9. All of the other comments have said you’ve made them hungry, and I agree! It was definitely the pizzas that got me though because they looked incredible!!! This is a perfect guide tho, and I hope a lot of people will use it

  10. Emily

    Wow! What an amazing, detailed food guide!! There are so many wonderful recommendations! It made me hungry just reading through this!

  11. Just Heading Out

    This is such a good guide! I wish I had this when I was in Ho Chi Minh last year. Everything looks and sounds so delicious. I really wanted to try P4 pizza, but unfortunately they were closed for Tet when I was in HCMC. It can be really hard to get good pizza in Southeast Asia, but those sound amazing. I love how you explain all the local dishes and street food as well, not speaking Vietnamese, it can be hard to know what to pick, so this is really helpful

  12. Nishil Kothary

    This was the perfect article for me! I am planning on backing here in a few months. I definitely want to try all the PHo I can get like you mentioned. Will definitely check out that spot!

  13. Shane Prather

    Oh wow, all of the photos look simply delectable! I am sad to admit that I’ve only ever had Phở from the Vietnamese cuisine and I’m not even sure how authentic it was. I want to visit and try every thing I possibly can. It must be so flavorful. Great guide I will keep in handy!

  14. AllGudThings

    Thanks for compiling up this guide. You have listed options for very type of eaters – from good bars to burgers to Indian food. we are planing a trip shortly here and will really your this post.

  15. Jas

    Saigon was one of the places I’d missed during my Vietnam trip last spring. Bún thịt nướng and Cơm tấm look absolutely to die for and seems like I definitely need to make a trip back to try them. Also didn’t know there were so many foreign food options. While I tend to try more local foods when I travel, those Mexican tacos are definitely calling out to me! The drinks at Layla are super pretty too. No wonder it’s your favorite!

  16. Danik

    Ok where do I start. I haven’t tried Vietnam food yet but it does look very yummy and cant wait to get there and try it. I do eat fried chicken now and again so it is good that you include this into the post (but knowing me, I probably wont go there but its good to know for a handy back up or I just fancy chicken one evening) and those beers and cocktails. I am gained! 🙂

  17. We have not yet visited. But the food would certainly tempt me to add Saigon to our travel wish list. Your guide provides such a great range of places to try. Certainly a post to keep for when we plan our visit. We love all the fresh veggies in the local food. Although good to know there are some foreign staples if we need familiarity. Pizza is always a comfort food. I I love a pizza with burrata on it! Now I have to go and eat!

  18. Carol Colborn

    What a complete guide. You have all the favorite Vietnamese food and you even have my chicken feet dimsum!!!

  19. Patricia Pagenel

    I wish I had your post when we visited Vietnam and HCM! We had so many Phở, so yummy, and never the same! bánh xèo was a discovery and we enjoyed them so many times, walking the streets and tasting the food as we went. HCM was really a surprising city, totally different than what I was expecting, and such a contrast with Hanoi.

  20. Samantha Karen

    Good thing I read this after I ate dinner because these dishes look amazing. I would definitely be heading straight for that Pho in Vietnam but you’re right, after spending some time there I would be craving some western foodie options. Its great you included such a wide range of options.

  21. pinkcaddytraveloguegmailcom

    I love a good bowl of pho on cold days in the States, but I’d really love to try one in Vietnam!! All of the authentic restaurants look so good. I can’t imagine ordering fried chicken there, that seems so strange haha. Or pizza. But I guess sometimes you just crave some western food!

  22. Lara Dunning

    All this food looks so good. I haven’t been to Vietnam and am way out of my element with this style of food, so this guide is amazing to have. And, I totally get craving those familiar foods while traveling and its good to know where to find places that make a fab pizza and fried chicken!

  23. Yukti

    All options look very delicious and tempting too. There are many options to eat in Saigon, Ho Chi Minh city. I never knew so many varieties in Vietnamese food but loved reading them in your post. Being vegetarian, hopefully, I would also find something vegetarian too.

  24. Jeremy

    I love pho and bun cha ta !! Like that you included a coffee section ! Im a coffee addict myself and always appreciate some tips on cafes. Saw you posted photos of egg coffee but didnt elaborate on them ? I really think it is something to be tried ! It is an acquired taste, but nowhere else in the world (i think).

    1. Yes! Good catch, Jeremy! Egg coffee can be found in Saigon, although it is much more common in the north of Vietnam. I really like it, and it doesn’t have much of an “egg” flavor. When I tried it for the first time, I was with a bunch of other expats, and most liked it as well. It’s quite smooth and creamy, definitely worth a try once!

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