Food plays an important role in Vietnamese culture, with special dishes being prepared for celebrations and holidays. No matter when or where you visit, the national dish phở (noodle soup) can be found at every turn, in a street stall or a nice restaurant. Cơm is also popular and consists of a plate of rice accompanied by meat and vegetables. Bia hơi, the draft beer of Vietnam is a must for brew lovers. Other beers to try include Saigon Do, Bia Hanoi and Bia Huda. Vietnam makes some fabulously strong coffee, which goes down great with French-inspired pastries and baguettes. On a hot afternoon, a coconut water or sugar cane juice can be the perfect refreshment.
Bars and Pubbing in Vietnam
There is no denying that Ho Chi Minh City is the center of Vietnam’s nightlife. Everything from pubs to trendy nightclubs are available for one’s enjoyment, with bands or DJs pumping out dance-worthy beats. No other bar in town has better live music than Acoustic Café (6E1 Ngô Thời Nhiệm, Ho Chi Minh City), who plays cover songs by famous rock ‘n’ rollers like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and The Doors. Q Bar (7 Lam Son Square, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City) is the complete opposite end of the spectrum, offering a super-chic environment with DJs spinning the latest tunes. It is the “it” place with prices to match. Blue Gecko Bar (31 Ð Ly Tu Trong, Ho Chi Minh City) is much more casual, with pool tables, cold beer and numerous TVS for catching the latest game.
There is also plenty of nightlife in Hanoi and Nha Trang. As its name implies, Minh’s Jazz Club (65 Quan Su, 3rd Floor, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi) is a smoky jazz spot that has an incredible resident sax player and often hosts performances by international musicians. Cheeky Quarter (1 P Ta Hien, Hoàn Kiếm, Hanoi) is a great place to meet others over a game of foosball, with bass and house music throbbing in the background. Patrick Wine (67/35 Hung Vuong, Nha Trang) has the most extensive vino menu in all of Vietnam, while Ha Van ‘A’ Rooftop Lounge & Restaurant (3/2 Tran Quang Khai, 5th floor, Nha Trang) is best choice for a cold beer, good food and live sports.
Dalat’s The Hangout Bar (71 Truong Cong Dinh Street, Dalat) is the favorite place in Vietnam to meet fellow travelers. Bamboo Bar 2 (230 Ð Bach Dang, Da Nang) is one of Da Nang’s best hole-in-the-walls and is popular among expats, while New Phuong Dong (20 Dong Da, Da Nang) is the place to go for dancing.
Dining and Cuisine in Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City has the largest selection of cuisine in Vietnam. One of the highest rated five-star restaurants is The Deck Saigon (38 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien, An Phu, D2, Ho Chi Minh City), set over the banks of the Mekong River, just 15 minutes outside of the city. Quan An Ngon (160 Pasteur Street, Ho Chi Minh City) offers fantastic Vietnamese cuisine within a French villa, while Au Lac do Brazil (238 Pasteur, Ho Chi Minh City) is a great place for meat lovers.
Don’s Bistro (16/27 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi) is arguably the finest restaurant in North Vietnam and serves eclectic international cuisine complete with a cigar lounge and a wine cellar. Pane e Vino Italian Restaurant and Wine Shop (98 Hang Trong, Hanoi) has an even more extensive wine list to go with its mouth-watering Italian cuisine. Hanoi’s Cha Ca La Vong (14 Cha Ca St, Hanoi) is so famous, the street it resides on is named after it; and is hands down the best place to go for local delicacies.
With a menu of pizza, steak, Japanese, Vietnamese, cakes, and locally-brewed beer, there is something for everyone at Louisiane Brewhouse (Lot 29, Tran Phu, Nha Trang) in the beach town of Nha Trang. For a taste of home, Texas BarBQ and Steaks (26 Tran Quang Khai Street, Nha Trang) should hit the spot, while Le Petit Bistro (26D Tran Quang Khai Street, Nha Trang) is best for French cuisine and great wine.