Drinking in Ho Chi Minh City: Coffee shops
Vietnam is the worlds second largest exporter of coffee behind Brazil, and cà phê is very popular among the Vietnamese. It’s a paradise for coffee-loving visitors. The local style is strong and sweet; key words to remember are: sữa (sweetened condensed milk), đá (ice), and nóng (hot, pronounced “nowm”). Cà phê đá is strong, sweet iced coffee; and cà phê sữa đá is the same with condensed milk. Cà phê (sữa) nóng is brewed fresh on your table brewed in a little metal apparatus placed over a cup; just lift it off when it has cooled enough to touch (and hence drink). Prices range from 10,000 to 20,000 dong for coffee in the local style.
Since ice might or might not be made with purified water, strictly cautious visitors should avoid it, though long-term residents consume ice from reputable cafes and restaurants all the time.
Espresso, cappuccino, and American-style filter coffee are now also widely available in the tourist district, usually at twice the price of the local style.
- Cafe 5 Sao Near the Turtle Pond, on Pham Ngoc Thach. Plays loud techno music. Attractive but pretentious crowd.
- Bobby Brewery Coffee, on Bui Vien st., opened and operated by an American guy who is used to offering money for the charity. It’s a nice place with good beverage. Used to show the movies on 2nd and 3rd floor.
- La Fenêtre Soleil 2nd floor on the corner of Le Thanh Ton and Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. Save the world from pint size caramel Lattes. Brave the decrepit stairway and enter an oasis.
- Gloria Jeans Cnr Dong Khoi and Nguyen Thiep (opposite the Sheraton). Popular Starbucks-style chain.
- Kem Café Nearest place for many in downtown D1 to go with a local. Pull up a plastic chair and sit on the pavement. A table will appear. Practice “Cà phê đá” or “Cà phê sữa da”. If you want hot then attempt “nowm” but don’t expect to be understood. Point.
- Chot Nho Café 189, Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan District. Reasonable price, good menu. 10 minutes by taxi from main city center. free Wi-Fi.
- Cine Café 116 Nguyen Du, inside the Galaxy Cinema complex. Quiet ambiance with views of the park.
- Givral Café, Dong Khoi (opposite Continental Hotel). More in the French tradition, with fresh pastries, collared waiters and elaborate portions of ice cream. Well located, but over 20000 dong for the simplest cup.
- Hideaway Café, 41/1 Pham Ngoc Thach, Q.3 – as its name implies, this place is hidden away and a good place to read, or have a quiet conversation or meal. Decent Western menu, although slightly pricey, is good. Free Wi-Fi.
- Highlands Coffee is an upscale, somewhat pricey chain serving Western-style as well as local-style brews in prime locations around the tourist district. They also serve food and pastries. Cappuccino costs above 30,000 dong, approaching prices in the west, but the quality is disappointing.
- M-Comic 99B vo thi sau a, a rather hard to find coffee shop. Upstairs is like a bedroom with a couple of beds – arrive early if you want to occupy one. It has large selection of magazine and comic book to chose from. The price is fairly cheap, ranging from 11,000 to 30,000 dong. But only serves Vietnamese drinks, and the staff barely speak English. Has free Wi-Fi.
- Cafe Napoly on Pham Ngoc Thach near the Turtle Pond. The decor is Roman-ruin-lite (they meant “Napoli”) but the menu is typical for an upscale Vietnamese cafe — coffee, fruit drinks, ice cream, and a simple food menu including eggs and rice dishes. Piped music is nice, not too loud by day (though louder at night), prices are decent. Has three parts: an outdoor terrace in front, air-con section on the ground floor, and evening time lounge-bar on the upper floor. Next door to the louder, more trendy / pretentious Cafe Nam Sao.
- Poppy Café www.poppyvn.com, 217 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3. Modern lounge café where the specialty is fruit-topped natural frozen yogurt. The only café in SG that serves this refreshing healthy treat. Creative fruit smoothies and light Vietnamese + Western fares also on menu. Free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and English-speaking staff.
- Sozo has two locations, including one in Pham Ngu Lao. Prices are reasonable, Wi-Fi is free, and all proceeds benefit needy Vietnamese families. Good drinks, friendly staff, but their coookies could be better if they were baked in a real oven.
- Trung Nguyen, www.trungnguyen.com.vn. The Vietnamese version of Starbucks, but with much better coffee. They have locations all over the city, but are not well represented in the heart of the tourist district. Figure on 10000 dong for a basic cuppa, although there are plenty of variations including the infamous weasel coffee (cà phê chồn), made from coffee beans collected from civet excrement. Two convenient outlets are east side of Nguyen Hue right before City Hall, and corner of Thu Khoa Huan and Ly Tu Trong.
- Regina Cofee 84 Nguyen Du Street, District 1, HCM City. It’s a great p* lace to get a good cup of Vietnamese coffe or even American style cappuccino. They have an extremely skilled Japanese expresso master who knows how to brew coffee. The place has sort of a French mixed with Asian design with bricks covering all the walls. It’s marketed towards tourists but it’s a good place for expats with it’s good coffee. All proceeds go to the church just around the corner.
- Windows Cafe, near the Reunification Palace. This is a pen for Vietnam’s fashion slaves and seems to be THE place to be seen. Pretentious atmosphere, good menu, always packed.