In the early morning many begin their day with a pho and one local’s recommendation was spot on. Pho Truong Sa’s bowl was made with fresh rice noodles cooked al dente and a rich steaming broth, ready for you to sink in basil and sawtooth coriander. Get to 5D Tang Bat Ho before 08:30 because this shop runs out of stock (pun intended) fast.
Pho Lan is open longer and the crispy deep-fried shallots added to the top make the whole noodle soup sing. We also appreciated how they blanch the beansprouts and slices of beef first to remove the impurities. A bowl is just 25,000 dong. They also do bo ne (beef and fried egg on a sizzling hot plate, 25,000 dong) and banh mi op la, baguette sandwiches with egg.
For lunch or dinner head to Co Bon at 232 Tran Hung Dao St for bun thit nuong. Cold rice vermicelli noodles are topped with lettuce, herbs, peanuts, pork rolled in lolot leaves, grilled lemongrass pork and a fried cracker – just crumble up the cracker and mix the motley, working in the sweet chilli-flecked dressing. This delicious bowl costs only 20,000 dong. They also do fast rice plates, steamed rice with your choice of meat and veg from the trays.
Gia Vy 2 is where locals head for their banh xeo fix. At the fiery front of house of this casual shop, women work sizzling pans over multiple coal braziers. Banh xeo is a fried savoury pancake topped with green onions, bean sprouts and your choice of meat: shrimp (tom), squid (muc) or beef (bo). It’s eaten nem-style, stuffing pieces of the pancake inside a rice paper wrapper along with a motley of lettuce, herbs, shredded mango, sprouts, cucumber and a sweet-sour-salty-hot dipping sauce. Two pancakes only cost 40,000 dong — but stopping at just two is optimistic. Note that other banh xeo joints have opened beside it and they’ll befuddle new arrivals, pulling people into their shops. Look for name and address Gia Vy 2 at 14 Dien Hong St.
Com ga (chicken rice) will cure all hunger pains. Simple yet delicious Com Ga Trong delivers a heaping plate of rice with a whole fried chicken leg for 45,000 dong. It comes with a portion of simple salad and iced green tea. Add a bowl of broth for just 5,000 dong. Find it on Mai Xuang Thuong, a few blocks east of big boulevard Nguyen Tat Thanh. Mai Xuang Thuong is one street south of Nguyen Thai Hoc St.
Not surprising, there are plenty of seafood (hai san) restaurants and a whole string of them can be found towards the northern half of the beach. Located at 33A Nguyen Hue, one street back from the beach is Cay Dua, a seafood restaurant recommended to us by a local. We didn’t try it but judging by how packed it was every night, it seems like a good choice.
As of late 2016, on-the-beach vendors was limited to two side-by-side cafes Surf Bar 1&2, three-quarters of the way up Qui Nhon’s beach. We’re impressed at how classy and tastefully done it is — this ain’t your typical plastic chair under plastic tarp joint. Relax on wooden patio chairs and enjoy the ocean vista. Thatch umbrellas and wooden loungers can be used for the price of a drink. There’s even a toilet and rinse off shower. At sunset and into the evening, it’s a terrific spot for a spot of refreshment and front row seats to the football games and families splashing in the water.
14 km south of the city and 4 km south of Bai Xep is a family-owned seafood joint on Bai Rang. The family has lived on this beach for 74 years and has had the restaurant for four. We had a gigantic feast of squid stir-fried with onions and chilli, plate after plate of fried prawns and a lot of beer. Shared with a group of other travellers, it was only 150,000 dong per person.
Big Tree Backpackers is a hostel, bar and restaurant on Bai Xep beach with a menu that offers a bit more soul food than the average budget traveller hub. Sure, there’s fish ’n’ chips and burgers, but there’s also Vietnamese dishes, tuna steak with peppersauce, pork ribs and different specials every day. The concocted cocktail list features crafted creations — no bucket drinks or Vodka Hanoi here (though if you have a hankering for Dalat Wine, we spotted a few bottles). We’ve never seen any other hotel in Vietnam offer a Dark ’N’ Stormy made with homemade ginger beer. A fresh salad is 60,000 dong while generously sized mains will set you back 80,000-120,000 dong, to be enjoyed while digging toes into the sand and feeling the sea breeze. It’s open from breakfast, kitchen closes around 21:00, bar open until late.
Big Tree Backpackers: Bai Xep beach, 10 km south of Qui Nhon; T: (098) 211 4906; www.bigtreebaixep.com/; kitchen open until 21:00
Cay Dua: 33A Nguyen Hue St
Co Bon: 232 Tran Hung Dao St; T: (0943) 515 444; open daily for lunch and dinner
Com Ga Trong: Mai Xuan Thuong St, a few blocks east of Nguyen Tat Thanh St
Gia Vy 2: 14 Dien Hong St; T: (0932) 798 669
Pho Lan: 08 Tran Cao Van St
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.