Eat and meet
Can ThoWhile many of Can Tho's restaurants line the riverside, a bunch of reasonable options are also clustered around the hotels towards the southern end of town, and a block or so back from the river. You won't have to look too far at all to find a good place to eat in Can Tho.
For really good street fare, Cay Me is a typical looking corner shop which offers tasty Vietnamese fare at reasonable prices. They only offer five items, listed on the wall -- their banh cuon is a highlight. These minced pork stuffed rice rolls come with bean sprouts, fried shallots, basil and three types of pork rolls. As if there isn't enough porcine goodness on the plate, the joint adds in rolled pieces of grilled pork stuffed with fat. The restaurant is really busy early morning and is a great place to check out the local scene.
The large Pho Oanh unashamedly advertises what they sell with a huge bright red neon sign and rows of meat hanging on display pegs. If you were missing pho in your Mekong journey, look no further than this place. Along with your typical pho bo (beef) and pho ga (chicken), they also serve broken rice dishes, steamed fish and fantastic minced beef meatballs served on sugarcane sticks.
For vegetarians, hole-in-the-wall Com Chay An Lac vegetarian restaurant boasts a wall dedicated solely to meat substitute products, and while it may mostly look dreadful, it tastes good. Popular with locals, especially for take-away, they offer good soups, fresh spring rolls and a variety of other ready-made veggie dishes, plus service with a smile. Vegetarians won't be disappointed and meat eaters may be fooled. English menu.
Set behind the Golf Hotel, Hop Pho is a sprawling two-level coffee and ice-cream emporium is a must-try if you want to get away from the tourist crowds and relax in a real Vietnamese environment. Popular with students and grannies alike, the well-alcoholised coffees carry enough sugar to send you into cardiac arrest and the ice creams are not far behind. Exhaustive, bordering on bizarre drinks list -- try the Aloe Vera and Grenadine cocktail, or perhaps the fresh milk and orange juice concoction. Very welcoming staff. Recommended.
While Western tourists rule the roost here at lunch, in the evenings the restaurant at Hotel 31 rests firmly in local hands. A full house is a regular deal here and while we gave it a go, it seemed we didn't have as much luck as the locals in our menu choices -- local knowledge perhaps, so ask for whatever the table next to you is having if you want to try here. Reasonable prices.
The building if not the bar and restaurant has been in action since 1965 and the fries here taste as if they've been cooked in oil that hasn't been changed since then. Mekong Restaurant has one of the most enthusiastic touts we've ever come across -- he doesn't shy from chasing cars down the road to bring in more traffic to this small hole-in-the-wall. Attracts a steady crowd of Vietnamese who go for the noodle soup, local characters who knock back beer, and travellers who regret ordering the fries. Reasonable prices and a comprehensive Western and Vietnamese menu, with a few goat specials thrown in.
Located in the ground floor and first floor of the Nam Bo Hotel, the elegant Nam Bo attracts tourists like bugs to a lantern and it's easy to see why. The first floor terrace is ideal for people watching and savouring the late afternoon Can Tho light. Service is good and friendly, and while the food and drinks are both succulent and refreshing, the prices may leave your throat a little dry. A good option for a splurge. You can also find market inspired cuisine at L'Escale which is located on the sixth floor of the same building.
Playing second fiddle to the flash Nam Bo next door, Phong Nam is popular with tour groups and travellers alike. Their fare is good and prices far more down to earth than its lofty neighbour. Decor is nondescript but the atmosphere can get pretty raucous. While grabbing a front table might sound like a good idea, this also puts you in the sights of the many touts selling boat tours that congregate in the area.
For something a bit different, Nha Hang Du Thuyen is located on a floating boat, with the restaurant spanning three floors and offers pretty good Vietnamese food at higher prices. The boat leaves at 19:30 and stays on the river until 21:00. Just be aware that once you are on, you are on for the whole trip. The noise level on the first two floors can be deafening at times with an in-house band, magician and even some karaoke working the room. So get there early to grab a seat on the al fresco dining area on the top floor and get views of Can Tho town on one side and the bridge on the other.
Cay Me 31 Dong Khoi T: (071) 3826 179. Open 6:00 – 22:00
Com Chay An Lac 10 Dien Bien Phu. T: (071) 3815 188 Open 5:00 – 17:00
Hotel 31 31 Ngo Duc Ke St. T: (071) 3825 287
Hop Pho 4-6 Ngo Gia Tu St. T: (071) 3815 208
Mekong Restaurant 2/2 Nguyen Trai. T: (071) 3699 179 Opening hours: 10:00 – 23:00 http://mekongrestaurant.vn/
Nam Bo 1 Ngo Quyen. T: (071) 3819 139 Opening hours: 6:00 – 22:00 http://nambocantho.com/english/restaurant
Nha Hang Du Thuyen Hai Ba Trung. T: (071) 3810 841 Open from 18:00 – 22:00
Pho Oanh 96-98 Ly Tu Trong. T: (071) 3830 828 Open 5:30 – 22:30
Phong Nam Restaurant 48 Hai Ba Trung St. T: (071) 3812 077 Opening hours: 8:00 – 22:00
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