Ho Chi Minh City is big enough to accommodate appetites for humble street food favorites like com tam, pho, and banh mi or for swanky coffee shops and fine-dining restaurants. Travelers to Vietnam’s southern capital dine well on all budgets, whether they’re slurping noodles on the street or enjoying a four-course European meal in a sky-high restaurant.
Vietnam House Restaurant
Chef Luke Nguyen, Australian-born celebrity chef, helms the team at this luxurious restaurant offering modern Vietnamese dishes from north to south. Traditional dishes take new life in Chef Luke hands. For instance, his take on cha gio (spring rolls) uses fried lobster and wood-ear mushrooms. His banh xeo (Vietnamese crepes) are redolent with Iberico ham and crab meat. And the braised wagyu beef cheek, a must-order, uses Vietnamese flavor bases to win diners over.
Mien Ga Ky Dong
This spacious but unassuming restaurant is devoted to chicken—serving a wide range of poultry dishes from pho mien ga (chicken pho) to chicken drumstick salad to bean-thread noodle and chicken soup. Of course, the pho—a generously-sized bowl of noodles, chicken meat, and aromatics drowning in chicken stock—is the star of the show. In fact, local demand for their pho mien ga has sustained Ky Dong for almost half a century, since its humble beginnings as a street pho stall. Do as the locals do, and order a glass of sugarcane juice to wash the lot down.
Housed in a renovated colonial villa in District 2, La Villa creates an elegant dining experience courtesy of the husband and wife team that run the place. While Tina Trang Pham leads the front office, Chef Thierry Mounon whips up an unconventional menu that blends classical French techniques and ingredients with Vietnamese spices and flair.
Diners at La Villa can choose to sit at the cozy dining hall, or outside near the swimming pool. A la carte orders are available, though the set menus are a great way to get good value out of the La Villa experience.
Banh Mi Hoa Ma
What better way to enjoy a favorite Vietnamese street food, than by eating it right on the street? Banh Mi Hoa Ma along Cao Thang Road serves patrons right on the sidewalk, with two variants on the classic Vietnamese sandwich.
Order their classic banh mi op la, whose name alludes to its eggy interior (“op la” derives from the French “oeufs au plat”, or sunny-side-up eggs). The sandwich comes with two eggs done your way, airy Vietnamese baguettes, meat, and caramelized onions and pickled vegetables and tea are served on the side. Pork pate and coffee are optional but highly recommended. Meals are cheap, costing no more than 50,000 dong per order.
Hum's name is derived from a common meditation phrase and that kind of mindfulness bleeds into the restaurant's calming interiors and the well-considered menu. The Vietnamese have had a long vegetarian tradition with dishes like tofu in fermented bean sauce, spicy mushroom salad with roasted rice, and pomelo salad. The restaurant offers a fine list of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks as well. Hum is also vegan-friendly with a distinction made between vegan and vegetarian dishes on the menu.
Com Tam Ba Ghien
Famous for its “grand slam” com tam suon nong, Com Tam Ba Ghien pulls out all the stops when serving this iconic Vietnamese comfort food. Beyond just a pork chop on top of cheap rice, you’ll get a massive (by Vietnamese standards) grilled pork chop, a healthy serving of rice, sunny-side-up eggs, Vietnamese meatloaf, shredded pork rind and meat, and a side sauce of nuoc cham (sweet fish sauce)
The restaurant is pretty unassuming – little more than a stall set at a remove from the tourist district – but it’s the best place to go for com tam if you want the authentic experience.
Sit down at this grilled-seafood joint overlooking the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal, and you’ll find one of the best beer and food hotspots in the city. Vietnamese beer gets even better when paired with fresh seafood, grilled as you order. Local specials include grilled octopus; stir-fried snails; grilled oysters; and shrimp on skewers. There’s nothing fancy on the menu, but everything’s fresh, newly-cooked, and promptly served. Expect to spend some 800,000 dong for a few hours’ dining here good for four.
Ba Ba’s co-owners, Fabien and Trang, opened their restaurant to introduce northern Hanoi-style cuisine to Ho Chi Minh City. The star of the menu is the northern noodle dish of bun bo nam bo. Every order is made fresh: beef fried in garlic and lemongrass, rice noodles, fried shallots, raw papaya, and peanuts—all with just the right amount of soup stock. Another northern favorite worth trying is northern-style nem ran, or fried spring rolls, using Hanoi rice paper.
“Ba Ba” means “grandmother” in Vietnamese, as the owners hope to elicit a kind of generational nostalgia with the simple yet delicious food served in the place. Everything is down-home at Ba Ba, down to the rustic glasses and plastic stools.
District 4 houses the city’s famous Vinh Kanh Street (Seafood Street) where stalls and restaurants hawk fresh seafood from dusk to the early hours of the morning. Snails are a big part of the menu on Seafood Street, and Oc Oanh is one of the better outlets for diners looking to try some.
Starting at 1 p.m. and ending at midnight, Oc Oanh serves up a varied menu of snails and seafood on low-slung tables along Vinh Kanh Street. Mud creeper snails are a popular choice, usually cooked in a coconut curry and served with rice. Otherwise, you can have your snails (or other items on the menu) served fried, steamed, grilled, or topped with anything from lemongrass to chili sauce.
Bun thit nuong (vermicelli noodles with grilled meat) is easy to find, as it's sold on almost every street corner, but very few places do it well which is why Kieu Bao is a stand out. This franchise sells from several locations in Ho Chi Minh City, offering its namesake dish to hungry Vietnamese and curious tourists but the most popular location is the one close to Bui Vien Walking Street.
Bun thit nuong is served with cha gio (spring rolls), fresh vegetables, and platters of nuoc mam (fish sauce) though at Kieu Bao the nuoc mam comes in gigantic buckets on your table!
Saigon Retro Cafe
Locals love nostalgia almost as much as they love fresh-brewed coffee and Saigon Retro Cafe delivers on both in abundance. Located above a Vinmart convenience store, Saigon Retro offers a choice of hanging out in a charmingly cluttered cafe interior, or on a balcony overlooking a bustling city street.
You can order a milky Saigonese coffee (ca phe sua da) paired with a complimentary swirly cookie called banh tai heo. The vintage clutter inside the cafe—old posters, books, ancient cameras, even retro phones—complements the jazz music and the comforting warmth of the coffee, creating a relaxed atmosphere that’s hard to come by in bustling Ho Chi Minh City.
You can enjoy a fine European-style meal 650 feet in the air at EON51. with a view to match! Housed in Ho Chi Minh City's tallest building, EON51 was designed to emphasize the view, so every table has access to the view as seen from the restaurant’s floor-to-ceiling windows.
Diners can choose between a Western-dining area and an Asian-cuisine area. Diners looking for more privacy and an even better view can reserve a mezzanine table. To accompany the meal, diners can also order from an extensive wine list with over 300 labels included.