Sadly but not surprisingly, Mui Ne suffers all the usual trappings of a tourist beach town. Food is pricey and overwhelmingly mediocre, with few true local joints. This fact makes a strong case for popping into nearby Phan Thiet city for delicious, inexpensive seafood and cheap, cheerful local food. But if you want to stick around in Mui Ne, here are our suggestions.
Seafood is coveted by tourists and it seems you can’t turn anywhere without seeing signs for it. Cay Bang is the longest running seafood restaurant in Mui Ne. It’s located on the western end of Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, just before it curves to the public beach. A big terrace over the rocks and ocean, coupled with a fresh sea breeze in the evening makes for a great setting. Service is a well-oiled machine and this place is popular with both locals and tourists. The menu is bilingual and seafood is priced by weight: shrimp, lobster, clams, scallops, squid, fish and crab, running anywhere from 500,000 dong to a precious million dong per kilo. The specialty is seafood, so skip the stir-fried noodles or meat dishes. They also have a location in Phan Thiet.
Several long-time Mui Ne residents recommended Bi Bo to us. Though we ran out of time to try it, we were told their food is fresh and comes served in big portions ideal for sharing family style.
You’ll no doubt see signs for bo ke, informal pop-up barbecue seafood restaurants that appear every evening. There’s a concentrated strip of them in the middle of Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, just west of Cat Sen Auberge. Most of these joints don’t have running water or sanitary methods. As much as we are big street food eaters, we personally wouldn’t eat at the bo ke and locals also told us to avoid them. Eat at your own risk.
Indulging in a meal or just a drink at a boutique resort can buy you a beautiful beach setting and view. There are two worthy splurgey hotel restaurants. Victoria Phan Thiet is set to the west on a private beach away from the tourist drag. It’s a respite from the crowds and the restaurant has a peaceful view over the water, as well as a bar/lounge with a range of excellent cocktails. The Vietnamese dishes are prepared by the chef who has been there for 17 years. There’s a small barbecue most nights (500,000 – 650,000 dong per person), as well as a big all-you-can-eat buffet once a week for 500,000 dong. Otherwise, a la carte will set diners back a reasonable 300,000 dong for two courses and a drink. Call ahead to make a reservation or to find out the day of the buffet.
Mia Resort’s Sandals restaurant is suitable if you’re in the mood for a posh sundowner. It’s a beach-chic spot with very comfortable chairs next to the sand but expect to pay 140,000 dong for a cocktail. Local beer starts at 45,000 dong.
Dig your feet into the sand at Pogo Beach Bar and Grill, another good chilled out beachfront haunt. It’s a good place to use for beach access, with sun beds, beanbags, friendly staff and a rinse-off shower. Things get livelier after sun down – yes, there are bucket drinks, as well as tunes. Some nights there’s live music. Though we didn’t try the food, the menu did catch our eye for being different – Mui Ne seems to suffer an epidemic of standard boring menus. Here you can get a beetroot couscous salad, all day breakfast, lemongrass clams, coconut prawn and passionfruit chicken. Mouth watering yet? Dishes start at 70,000 dong.
Jibe’s Beach Club is a popular hang out for kite and windsurfers who get to refuel on Western fare – burgers, sandwiches, pastas – starting at 100,000 dong. There’s seating under the shade or al fresco, with tables, chairs and sofas. Its neighbour Lam Tong Restaurant also caught our eye. It’s right on the water and it would be another decent spot for a oceanside cold one.
Got for the putts, stay for the food. Tropical Mini Golf, down a small lane across from Coco Beach Resort, has 18 holes, a fun distraction if lying in the sun gets too boring. The restaurant terrace is surrounded by tropical greenery that’s great for hanging out and the daily special menu of French fare is delicious. The regular menu includes both Vietnamese and Western, including steak frites and pasta. Mains start at 200,000 dong. A round of mini golf is 100,000 dong per person, or 120,000 dong including a beer.
The Mexican food at El Latino is fresh and simply prepared, and while it lacks that authentic zing, it does the trick if you’re craving it. Prices are a bit dear. Scarf down tacos, burritos, quesadillas for 120,000 dong, a salad costs 150,000 dong. Nachos and salsa grace the menu and you can munch away to latin tunes. There are two locations, El Latino and La Casa del Latino, the latter has a “husband waiting area” (in other words, bean bags and books).
Herbivores can get tasty flavourful meat-free eats at El Cafe. International vegetarian food include burritos, falafel, hummus, pasta and Indian dishes such as samosas. It’s fresh and the price is right, only 40,000 – 60,000 dong per item. Find it at the eastern end of Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street, in the back left corner of Dong Vui Square outdoor food court, ironically next to a meat barbecue joint.
Bi Bo: 191 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Ham Tien; (090) 2896 055; (093) 7885 452.
Cay Bang: 02-04 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Ham Tien; T: (062) 384 7009.
El Cafe: 246/2B Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Ham Tien, at Dong Vui Square; T: (168) 811 4838; www.facebook.com/elcafevietnam/; open daily 14:00-23:00.
Jibe’s Beach Club: 90 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Ham Tien; T: (062) 3847 405; www.jibesbeachclub.com.
La Casa del Latino: 117/C Nguyen Dinh Chiey St, Ham Tien; T: (012) 6425 2487; www.facebook.com/La-Casa-Del-Latino-414669578738504.
Mia Resort Mui Ne: 24 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Ham Tien; T: (064) 3847 440; www.miamuine.com
Tropical Mini Golf: 97 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Ham Tien; T: (122) 679 5914; email@example.com.
Pogo Bar: 138 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Ham Tien; www.thepogobar.com; open daily 10:00-03:00.
Victoria Phan Thiet: KM9, Phu Hai District; T: (062) 381 3000; www.victoriahotels.asia/en/phan-thiet.