Not fancy, but is good
Within walking distance of many of Saigon’s more popular sites, such as Ben Thanh Market and Notre Dame Cathedral, barbecue restaurant Barbecue Garden is located in a surprisingly peaceful spot considering it is in the middle of some prime real estate. Barbecue Garden isn’t a fancy looking spot; it’s about a hundred tables on an outdoor terrace shaded by some big trees. If you’re worried about eating outdoors, a retractable tarp roof is extended to cover you from the midday heat or the occasional spell of bad weather. Plenty of fans help compensate for the lack of air-con, keeping things from getting unbearable.
At night things cool down considerably and they flick on the lights, helping the whole place become a little more romantic; the tall trees are draped with white string lights and the floor’s main lighting comes from rustic street lamps. A bar sits in the middle of the restaurant while the small kitchen is actually located at the other end of the parking lot, separate from the seating area. I guess there is no need for a big kitchen though when each table is equipped with its own grill and propane tank.
At Barbecue Garden, as with other Asian barbecues, you do your own cooking. Their menu consists mostly of raw meats and vegetables, served on a big plate, that you will prepare yourself. If you’re struggling, the staff will usually help out, especially when things are slower. The highlight of their menu has to be the beef with cheese, a strip of beef wrapped around a small piece of cheese and onion. It sounds simple, but it’s addictive; I feel a little like a broken record ordering it over and over again. The beef with cheese, like most of their meat dishes, comes in two sizes: small, a serving for one person, and big, two smalls combined on one plate.
If you’re in the mood for seafood, the Garden has you covered but instead of sizes you’ll order by 100-gram increments. The price listed is for 100 grams, but they’ll make you buy at least 200 — still, even at 200 grams, prices are reasonable. A dinner for two can be easily done for under 200,000 VND, but splurging toward the 300,000 VND mark should give you more than enough to ensure you don’t leave hungry.
Barbecue Garden sits in that sweet spot of restaurants in Saigon: it’s cheap enough for backpackers to grab a bite but still nice enough for business meetings, romantic dinners, or big family meals. Actually, everything here is served family-style so large groups are better suited to experience more of the menu.
It’s a popular spot, and things can get crowded even with so many tables. Your best practice would be to call ahead for a reservation if you want to go for dinner just to be safe, otherwise you might have to wait a few minutes to be seated. If you can’t find a seat, you could try the other Vietnamese barbecue in town, 3T Quang, which is nearby but a bit louder and a bit more expensive. You’re also close to Ben Thanh Market so you could hop over there if you’re looking for more budget fare. Or if you’re after budget, you’re just around the corner from Xoi Number 1.
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 6th July, 2014.