Street Food- Everywhere- Saigon’s street food is fabulous- don’t be afraid to try it. If you are a bit nervous, go into Ben Thanh market midday when all the locals are there and go to the busiest stall. It’s a bit less street food-y than eating on the actual street but its just as tasty and a bit cleaner (and with taller stools!) Check out this blog for ideas on good street eats: http://stickyrice.typepad.com/
Bi Saigon- a tiny laneway off Pham Ngu Lao- actual address is 185/16- It’s a hotel and a restaurant with friendly staff and excellent local food. The kitchen is across the lane so you watch your food being shuttled across the street to you. Try to claypot dishes and there is also some dish that comes in a lit tube of bamboo that is yummy (not sure the name). The southern specialties like Banh Xeo and the crispy fried noodles are also good here. They also have a cooking class. Cheap and cheerful.
Cuc Gach Quan- 10 Daht Tan, District 1- Its number one on Trip Advisor which kinda sucks as it was a local friend who took me there a couple years ago for the first time and packed with locals. It still is up to par though with fabulous traditional food- go with 3 or more people for the full effect as you need to order around 10veggies plus your mains to have a ‘real’ traditional meal. Probably best to take a local. Great setting as well. Ohhh and be sure to order the purple sticky rice wine.
Pho 2000- Next to Ben Thanh Market- Bill Clinton had a bowl of pho here and while it is a bit of a tourist trap, the soups are good and the setting is clean. Go for the beef stew, try the spring rolls and get a fruit smoothy. Easy place to go if you can’t make up your mind- and it has air conditioning upstairs.
Lemongrass, Mandarin, etc- Dong Khoi Street- These places are ‘ok’ but more a go for the atmosphere. It’s billed as fine dining and the food is just that- fine. Nothing outstanding, but nothing bad. Just a place I’d take my 65 year old parents. Usually have live music on which is a selling point or a negative point depending on your point of view
Xu- 71 Ha Ba Trung- If you want to splash out, this is the place to go. Fussy Vietnamese food in a sleek setting. A place to see and be seen.
31 Ly Tu Trong – Not sure if this place has a name but known by locals and expats simple as ‘31’. A huge, noisey, smokey open-air place for barbeque. They have the exotic (goats penis, scorpions, etc) and the normal (chicken, fried rice, noodles). Good fun to go and have a few beers and sample the local delights.
Temple Club- 29 Ton That Tiep- Go for a drink as the building is amazing but skip the over-priced, bland food.