10 Must-Try Restaurants and Street Food Jaunts in Ho Chi Minh City

Avatar photo
Huan Phu

Last Updated: November 15, 2023

Ho Chi Minh City, the economic hub of Vietnam, is a vibrant and exciting city with an up-and-coming food scene to boot! From street food to fine dining, the gastronomic landscape of Saigon is growing from strength to strength. Vietnamese street food veterans, international chefs, and globalised Viet Kieu foodies have come together to ensure that is always something new to try.

As part of our guide to Saigon, Vietnam is Awesome has put together a list of 9 must-try best restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City in no order of preference. Get ready to lick your chops.

Vietnamese cuisine restaurants

When in Vietnam, eat Vietnamese food! Yes, you can always eat your fill of yummy street food (and we will get to that later), but sometimes you prefer to visit a place that offers a range of Vietnamese cuisine (street food stores tend to sell one type of food), where you can sit down comfortably and take your time to enjoy the meal.

1. Secret Garden/Secret House

The Secret restaurant group has beautifully decorated restaurants in convenient locations across district 1. Secret Garden restaurant (Calmette) is located down a small alleyway in the heart of Saigon, Secret Garden (Pasteur) is a rooftop restaurant, and Secret House is tucked away on a small street near Ben Thanh Market. Wooden furniture and a rustic setting makes for a relaxing and laidback ambiance inside, while traditional Vietnamese music plays in the background.

On the menu, all three restaurants offer a wide range of popular Vietnamese dishes, regional specialties as well as popular street snacks. Be sure to order the charred claypot rice, caramel-braised pork, fresh spring rolls or goi cuon, grilled pork paste with lemongrass.

This is a great place for lunch or dinner to bring foreign visitors for a delightful introduction to Vietnamese cuisine.

2. Green Papaya, Đu Đủ Xanh (Tiệm Chay / Vegetarian)

The dominant religion in Vietnam is Buddhism, and practitioners of this faith often consume only vegetarian food on the first and the fifteenth day of the lunar month. Thus, you can find a smattering of vegetarian restaurants across Saigon. Green Papaya is one of the hidden gems in Ho Chi Minh City.

Just a 15 minute walk from the Independence Palace, Du Du Xanh is at a prime location in the city. Despite that, you will find that it offers a quiet respite from the bustling nature of the vibrant city. Slightly hard to find, this restaurant is within a courtyard, and upon entering, you will feel like you are visiting a charming home of Saigon’s romantic past. Sit inside on beautiful, delicate, wooden furniture and enjoy the refined vegetarian Vietnamese dishes.

Try innovative and delectable food such as starfruit sour soup, curry brown rice, stir fried rice noodles and more! A great restaurant for a laidback weekend lunch or dinner.

3. Ngoc Suong Seafood and Bar

Ngoc Suong is a household name in Ho Chi Minh City which has been revamped by Le Quoc Vinh into Ngoc Suong Seafood and Bar, who wanted to add a modern touch to his family’s six-decades old group.

One of the few restaurants with live music, this sub-brand is synonymous with cool. Quoc Vinh reimagined the ambience of the dining space and injected western culinary touches into the traditional Vietnamese seafood flavours. In 2021, Ngoc Suong Seafood and Bar was one of only four Vietnamese establishments named in Asia’s 50 Best’s inaugural ‘Essence of Asia’ collection, which recognises some of Asia’s most authentic and diverse dining experiences.

The seafood tower brimming with oysters, crab claws, scallops, prawns, and clams, is a favorite dish amongst customers. Try the fish burger or the shrimp and crab mac and cheese for a western dish with a Vietnamese twist.

Fine dining and upscale restaurants

Looking to wine and dine a special someone? Celebrating a milestone event? Trying to impress international clients? Or simply wanting to treat yourself? Look no further, these are three of our favourite fine dining and innovative restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City.

4. Anăn Saigon

Anan is named as such as ‘ăn’ in Vietnamese means to eat. Anan is the brainchild of award-winning chef Peter Cuong Franklin. Born in Vietnam, 12-year-old Peter Cuong Franklin was airlifted out of Saigon by helicopter in 1975, as a child refugee from South Vietnam, who was then adopted by an American family. Graduating from Yale, and after spending many years as an investment banker in Hong Kong, New York City, and London, Peter turned to his passion for food.

Anan is the winner of The Best Restaurant in Vietnam Awards as part of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021. The inspiration behind Anan is Peter’s birth mother, who used to run a restaurant out of their home in Dalat.

A culinary destination in Saigon, Anan is known for its New Vietnamese Cuisine or ‘cuisine moi’. Peter has reimagined street-food delights, making creations that bind the old with new techniques. The restaurant is located near a wet market in the centre of Saigon, staying true to its roots.

Go for the tasting menu is a safe bet. Otherwise, be sure to try the banh xeo tacos, Dalat pizza with snails, and duck goi cuon. We also advise you to start off your dinner at their rooftop bar for cocktails served with Vietnamese flavours.

5. Quince Saigon

Led by acclaimed chefs Julien Perraudin and Charlie Jones, Quince’s website proudly proclaims that they offer ‘fine dining quality amidst a relaxed atmosphere that delivers the most aromatic dishes accompanied with the rustic charm of home-cooking, and an ever-changing seasonal cuisine with sustainable sourcing’.

Fully living up to its claim, Quince Saigon remains at the forefront of foodie hype and has everyone raving over their modern mediterranean fare. Not only was Quince named Vietcetera’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ in 2020, it was included in the coveted Asia’s 50 Best Discovery List (2021).

Located in a quiet, fairly residential, part of downtown Ho Chi Minh City, Quine Saigon is found amongst a row of quaint shophouses. The interiors are industrial chic and features an open kitchen, so you can see the menu magic happen before you.

On the menu, expect to find that every dish is extraordinary. It’s hard to name a favourite dish, but the duck liver parfait, not so mashed potatoes, wood baked camembert, spicy salmon nori tacos are top hits.

Quince restaurant also has a charming bar called Madame Kew upstairs that serves a very decent Negroni. Also, Quince Saigon has a delivery outfit called Staples, with an amazing fried chicken.

Be forewarned that everyone here is dressed to impress.

6. Kiyota Sushi Sake

This is a sushi bar unlike any other in Saigon town. A hidden gem in the Binh Thanh District, Kiyota Sushi Sake serves omakase, a chef’s tasting menu of small delectable dishes.

A very small restaurant located slightly out of the way of Saigon tourist hotspots, Kiyota Sushi Sake only has bar seating and two tables to the side. Be sure to book your seats in advance.

We love sitting at the bar for dinner and watching the chefs produce intricately prepared morsels of delight. Get read to be serve dish after dish of sushi, sashimi, and some hot dishes.

The menu is based on what seasonal offerings the chefs have on hand. In the past, we have been treated to amazing slices of sashimi, tender beef cubes, shivering towers of tofu.

7. Sol Kitchen and Bar

Sol is one of the only Latin American restaurants in Saigon. Hidden in plain sight in District 1, you have to clamber up a flight of stairs before entering a bright, open, room filled with comfortable sofa chairs, wicker basket light fixtures, and tonnes of indoor plants. If you have time on your hands, consider going to their District 7 location for pool-side vibes that just cannot be beat.

Founded by Malaysian Chef Adrian Chong, Sol Kitchen and Bar oozes chill and comfort. He calls his menu ‘fuss-free’ and describes it as a marrying of Asian and Tex-Mex flavours. For example, Adrian uses Vietnamese bánh tráng to replace corn tortilla chips, Korean chillies to replace jalapenos, and cumin to replace rosemary, resulting in a refreshingly new culinary delight.

Our favourite dishes include the grilled octopus, ceviche, carne asada, and of course churros to end the meal.

Top Ho Chi Minh City street food haunts

You cannot be in Saigon without having your fill of street food. Street food stalls reign supreme on every corner of densely packed Ho Chi Minh City churning out endless dishes for their clientele perched on plastic stools.

Vietnam has a long history of street food starting in late dynastic times, and although street food sellers currently exist in a legal grey area, they very much form the cornerstone of lunch, breakfast, and dinner for many people in the city!

Street food calls to mind crowd favourites such as bun cha, pho, bun thit nuong, fresh spring rolls, banh mi, coconut milk filled desserts as well as lesser-known counterparts such as Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm and Cá Kho Tộ. While everyone in Saigon will have their own opinion on where the best treats can be found, here, we bring you three of our favourite haunts.

8. Banh Mi Huynh Hoa

Affectionally known as banh mi o moi or lesbian banh mi, Banh Mi Huynh Hoa is run by a lesbian couple who offer a LGBTQ+ friendly workplace environment, as important as it is now back in the 1970s when they first opened.

Bigger than the average banh mi, Banh Mi Huynh Hoa’s version is packed with pickled vegetables, layers and layers of hams, sausages and pork paté. This huge stuffed loaf is one of the best food to have for an on the go lunch before you visit the nearby Ben Thanh Market, or if you are office workers looking for a quick afternoon bite.

9. Hải Hội Quán (bún chả)

Bun cha is a Vietnamese dish of grilled pork and rich noodle served with a dipping sauce made out of fish sauce, lime, sugar, and chilli. The dish originates from Hanoi and finding a good bun cha spot in Saigon is not that easy.

Hai Hoi Quan has been rated by born and bred Hanoians as close to the real thing. Located in the expat district of Thao Dien, Hai Hoi Quan remains a favourite of the Vietnamese who also live or work in the area. Expect it to be packed during lunch break.

10. Cơm tấm Ba Ghiền

Com tam is Saigon’s quintessential dish. The humble com tam is a dish made of broken rice and usually topped off with a barbecued chunk of pork. Our favourite version comes with a sunny up egg sprinkled with spring onions, and some vegetables or soup. The broken rice beautifully soaks up the juices from the meat and sides, and with a dash of fish sauce, it goes down wondrously.

Cơm tấm Ba Ghiền located at Phu Nhuan, is slightly out of the way, and yet is possibly the. most famous place for com tam in Saigon. Ba Ghiền has consistency delivered over the years with the pork chops freshly grilled throughout the day. It is no wonder, they are in no short supply of fans.

What else to eat in Saigon

There is so much good food in Saigon beyond what is listed above. Some other lunch places worth a visit include Pizza 4p’s for their crowd pleasing Japanese-style pizza and pastas, The Refinery, a French bistro opened in a former opium factory, and Mountain Retreat for high quality Vietnamese food. If you need a caffeine pick me up, nip into Cộng Cà Phê, a Viet Cong inspired chain of cafes for their yummy and refreshing coconut coffee, and check out backpacker street for more street food and night life options.

If you’re looking for something fun to do after enjoying Vietnamese cuisine, why don’t you check out Saigon’s 7 Awesome Rooftop Swimming Pools

We are just as excited as you are to visit our top restaurants in Saigon as the government is slowly lifting COVID-19 restrictions. We hope you stay safe and well while having a delicious time. 

Now your juices are flowing and you’re ready get out there and try some good grub, why not check out our 2-day itinerary for Saigon for more on the fantastic foods and activities you can find in this bustling city. 

Avatar photo
Huan Phu
Editor at Vietnam Is Awesome
Unearthing untold stories in the heart of Vietnam. Your eyes to the unseen, your voice to the unheard. Exploring the rich tapestry of this nation, one headline at a time. Join me on this journalistic journey!