Off the street
Finding cheap eats in Saigon is a very easy task, given some of the best food you may ever eat is served right on the street. Not everyone however is eager to dive into street cuisine and while you can find Vietnamese restaurants worth a splurge, many more affordable proper restaurants can be tourist traps. If you want to sample local offerings somewhere a little fancier than a street cart or the inside of a market, here are a few great choices that won’t break the bank.
If you’re sightseeing in District 1, you’ll likely come across Nha Hang Ngon. Set in a yellow, colonial-style villa with large leafed plants and exotic decorations, the restaurant seems like a fancy, somewhat touristy spot. Despite the upscale surrounds, this is one of the more affordable decent restaurants in Saigon, with most plates starting around 50,000 VND. Their menu is packed thick with options, including many dishes you can otherwise find on the street, and you can watch your food being prepared at various stations on the restaurant’s outer ring. With so many delicious options, this is a great place to start your culinary adventure in the city and their relatively affordable prices make it easy to sample multiple dishes.
Across the street from the Bitexco Financial Tower, Nha Lan Bakery is another spot where you can try a variety of low-cost Vietnamese dishes. They specialise in 20,000 VND banh mi, or Vietnamese sandwiches, which are bigger than what you’ll typically get from a street vendor and perfect if you’re eager to keep pounding that pavement. If you want to relax for a bit, their menu has plenty of Vietnamese standards, like pho and banh cuon, at prices starting around 45,000 VND. Nha Lan also has a variety of great tasting 20,000 VND smoothies. The restaurant is barebones — fan-cooled with metal stools — and although it can get hot in the afternoon, the prices and quality make it worth a stop for the hungry traveller.
A trip to Saigon wouldn’t be complete without a good bowl of pho and one of the best bowls in town is also one of the cheapest. Just a 10-minute taxi ride out of the downtown area is Pho Anh, a simple hole-in-the-wall restaurant serving inexpensive bowls of pho in a few simple varieties. Your big choice: beef or chicken, both costing 30,000 VND per bowl. This joint tends to be crowded, but you shouldn’t have to wait for a table and the food comes almost instantly.
If you’re in the mood for a cut of meat instead of a bowl of soup, you’ll want to head to Nam Son Beefsteak, the top spot in Saigon for sizzling beef. The menu here comprises only a small handful of dishes, including plain beefsteak or the beefsteak with fried egg (from around 50,000 VND). If you’re real adventurous you can order the special plate, which comes with the addition of sausage, meatballs and pate. Splurging up to the 80,000 to 100,000 VND range can get you an imported Canadian steak or a slab of ostrich. With two locations, both within walking distance from some of the city’s major landmarks, the restaurants are easy to find but are very much no-frills.
Nha Hang Ngon
160 Pasteur, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Nha Lan Bakery
50 Ham Nghi, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 3829 2970;
8-10A Ky Dong, W.9, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
T: (08) 3843 7480
Nam Son Beefsteak
157 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City
200BIS Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
By Max Murta
Last updated on 23rd October, 2014.