May 21 2013
If you’ve been travelling for an extended period, you may hanker for a taste of the West rather than chowing down on local cuisine for yet another meal. In the last year Ho Chi Minh has been flooded with fast food joints, but if you’re craving a meal that reminds you of home — you don’t have to stoop to those levels. Here are a few places that are worth a visit in Saigon instead.
One of the more popular Western spots in HCMC is Al Fresco’s and for good reason. With several locations sprinkled throughout the city, including a few in District 1, chances are you’ll find a restaurant close to where you are in the city. The menu here is heavy on Italian food with a solid selection of large-portioned pastas and popular pizzas, which are stand out from the competition because they use plenty of cheese. Although they have a solid Italian reputation, Al Fresco’s might be home to the city’s best ribs, which are slow-baked and tender. Prices are higher than your average Saigon restaurant, with mains starting around 150,000 VND, but for the portions and quality, especially compared to Pham Ngu Lao Western spots, it’s one of the better value joints in District 1. Check out the delivery menu, which has some special deals, like two for one pizza on Tuesday.
Worth the 20-minute taxi ride out of District 1, Scott and Binh’s is as close as you can get in Saigon to a hometown diner. A simple looking spot with some fancy purple chairs, Scott and Binh’s sports a big menu packed with a range of Western favourites, from pastas and burgers to Mexican and steak. I’m a big fan of their burgers, especially their monster-sized royale with cheese.
On weekdays, the restaurant only serves dinner from 16:00, but on weekends it adds an 11:00 to 15:00 brunch with an expanded menu of breakfast foods, with the scrambles being a great choice. The portion sizes here seem a little ridiculous; most burgers have two patties and the nachos are piled high. Dishes start at around 150,000 VND, again making it a pricier-than-average spot. But even more so than the food, what really makes this restaurant special is their service. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get a chance to meet Scott himself who does a fantastic job hosting and making small talk around the restaurant.
If you’re looking for something a little simpler, L’Usine is a great Western-style cafe that serves breakfast and lunch. A modern, trendy, hipster-ish restaurant with two central District 1 locations, L’Usine is the place to go for sandwiches and salads, which stand out due to the freshness of the ingredients. They also have a decent but limited menu of breakfast foods, like omelettes and French toast, and mains, like pastas and quiches. And this is where to find some of Saigon’s best desserts, particularly their baked goods. The only drawback to L’Usine is that they stop serving most food on the menu after 17:00, switching to just drinks and cheese plates. More than a cafe, it’s also a fine place to relax and enjoy the free WiFi and work on your laptop. Slightly cheaper than the other guys on this list, dishes here start at around 100,000 VND. Once you’re done eating, cruise their shop, which sells fashionable clothes, handbags and wacky electronics.
19-21 Mac Dinh Chi, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 3823 8427
Scott and Binh’s
15-17 Cao Trieu Phat, District 7, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (09) 4890 1465
151 Dong Khoi, 1st floor
District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 6674 3565
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