Our favourite bars in Saigon.
The list started at 5, but it’s growing!
Once again, back on the subject of alcoholic beverages. I’m afraid it’s an occupational hazard here in Saigon. The weather is hot; the drinks are cheap (Vietnam is officially one of the most affordable places to drink beer in the world right now), and, in our humble opinion, much of the charm and chaos of Ho Chi Minh City is best observed with a cold refreshing beverage in hand. Most of our favourites have a view to the world outside or provide a fascinating place for observation. Each has its unique character that keeps us going back time and time again. Here’s a short list of OUR five favourite bars in Saigon and why they make our list.
Red Chairs (Quan Nguyet): Backpacker Area D1
OK, this place isn’t actually called Red Chairs. In fact, nowadays, it doesn’t even have ‘red chairs’. But it did have when we first started to go there in 2011, and that’s what we named it. The chairs were so tiny my big fat bottom, quite often got stuck as I tried to depart. It definitely wasn’t comfort we were going for; it was the street life that ploughed its way past us and the characters that called this small stretch of road “home.” Do Quan Dau is a small street that joins Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao, right in the middle of backpacker/red light central. There’re quite a few hostess bars within immediate view, and the hustle never seems to stop.
‘Mum’ and ‘Dad,’ as we call the owners, are typical hard working, salt of the Earth peeps. They always seem to employ ‘helpers with character’ who also contribute to the entertainment factor. I hesitate to say, waitress, because the current ‘character,’ Hao doesn’t mind barking out the odd order or two and can DEFINITELY handle anything the rowdy clients can dish up. She calls me ‘Teacher’ (my day job!) and loves a hug. Word of warning….don’t try to hug her uninvited, or you’ll get a smack around the ear!
The food is simple but good. I translated some of the more astonishing menu items into proper English a while back for them, but the old amusing Vinglish remains. Just be aware that ‘Chicken Coop’ is apparently innards. Other than that, you can’t go too wrong. Our favourite bar snack isn’t even on the menu. Small, tasty whole fish, fried within an inch of their life and eaten with a spicy chili sauce and a multitude of green leafy matter is only available to those in the know. And honestly, I’m happy for it to remain a secret to ensure supply!
These days, the seating consists of comfy wooden deck chairs. Despite the facelift, the menu, prices and down to earth character remains the same. Head on into ‘Red Chairs’, enjoy a few coldies and watch the world go by.
Beers: Saigon Red (our drink of choice) currently sells for 15 000 VND. You can also get Saigon Green, Larue and Tiger Beer for much the same price.
Address: 37 Đỗ Quang Đẩu, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
The Lion – Downtown D1
This place has been a long-time favourite of ours. With a happy hour that runs all day until 6 pm, there’s plenty of opportunities to plant yourself smack bang in the middle of District 1 and watch the world go by. Right next to The Caravelle, and opposite the Opera House, there’re not too many places in town with a better outlook onto downtown Saigon. The open area at the front gives you a front row access to the wealthy and famous and down and out. There’s a wedding reception venue in the complex, so weekends are a fabulous time to see the locals in their finest threads. Amusing to see them going in stone cold sober and rolling out a few hours later.
The Lion is a working micro-brewery as well and offers two beers brewed in-house. Both are German-style, low on gas and big on taste. There’re a blond and a dark beer as well as an offering of canned and bottled beers from around the world.
Stroll inside past the fish tanks and check out the brewery hardware as it matures the next batch of Lion Beer, an impressive sight! The waitresses are dressed up as colourful fraulines, and they go all out in October for the annual Octoberfest celebrations.
Address: 11-13 Lam Son Square, Dist.1, Ho Chi Minh City
Hoa Vien Brauhaus
You can be forgiven for having that one more beer than you should have and thought you’d woken up in one of Europe’s famous beer establishments. The Hoa Vien Brauhaus also brews their own beer on the premises. The bar is built around large, brass kettles that churn out a light and a dark beer for thirsty customers looking for something different. The bonus here is the inclusion of Pilsner Urquell (the world’s first pilsner-style beer) on tap.
The Brauhaus can be found down a lane off Nguyen Thi Minh Khai next to the Czech Embassy, who, no doubt, provide care and support. With a distinctly Bohemian style of polished timber and brass, it even incorporates a beer garden, open to the sky, right in the middle of the establishment.
With the collaboration of Pivo Praha, traditional brewing technology, Bohemian malt and Saatz hops, Hoa Vien oozes class and quality but is is not a high-end place, though. It has more of a pub atmosphere with lots of guys rattling their glasses together consistently and a good menu of either pub-grub or more filling food. It’s a great place to bring your mates. You won’t get too embarrassed about spilling some of your beer here or singing all the way down the lane on your way to find a taxi home!
Address: 18 bis/28 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
The Long Bar
A 5 Star establishment with 3-star prices in happy hour (5-7pm each night). The beer on tap is Krombacher, a tasty German brew, and the cocktail list is superb for special occasions.
Situated in a converted laneway space between The Reverie Hotel and Sunny Plaza, The Long Bar really is long (and narrow). It maintains a 5-star ambience though as it is still a part of the hotel complex. Staff are extremely polite and attentive and quality drives everything here.
If you’re feeling peckish, try out the bar menu. I highly recommend the pizzas. Ciro is a master pizza chef from Napoli. He came with the pizza oven, according to Executive Chef, Giovanini Parrella and is passionate about his creations. We’ve been able to sample a couple on the menu, as well as some of their experiments we hope become available to the public real soon. The pizza dough is spelled for almost two days to give it a tenderness I’ve not tasted before. Ingredients are imported directly from Italy. You won’t find a more authentic pizza in town.
Read a full review of why we love The Long@Times Square here.
Address: Between Lucky Plaza and The Reverie Hotel on Dong Khoi St. District 1 or 22 – 36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Pasteur Street Brewing Company
The new kid in town and is Vietnam’s first craft brewery. Ran by some young, enterprising Americans previously connected with the Upslope Craft Brewery in Boulder, Colorado, they are looking to fill a niche in the market here in Saigon and have made positive in-roads into the hearts of beer lovers looking for something other than the usual offerings. Pasteur Street has earned a swag of international beer awards and a growing reputation throughout Vietnam for quality craft beer. There are currently eight beers on tap all brewed from local ingredients with new beers rotated through the taps regularly. They are also now available in several places around Saigon.
Situated down a narrow slot of a lane in Pasteur Street (of course) right next door to the Rex Hotel, the brewery is now open seven days a week and can fill up quickly on the weekends.
So, if you’re looking for something a bit different and like to experiment a little with your choice of beers, you can’t do any harm than dropping in for a couple the next time you wander past. Read our full review here.
Address: 144 Pasteur Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
Malt is one of the newer kids on the craft beer scene, but it’s rapidly growing in popularity. It’s conveniently situated at 46-48 Mac Thi Buoi, just off Dong Khoi in District One. With a friendly no smoking atmosphere, energetic staff and tasty bar food, it’s made it onto our list of favourite bars around town, after only one visit. They have an excellent range of Pasteur Brewing Company beers on tap, as well as a couple of brews from Fuzzy Logic. Their range of bottle craft beers is increasing on a weekly basis. For the non-beer drinkers, they have a range of signature cocktails and an excellent selection of single malt whiskies if that’s what floats your boat.
Since our first visit, just two weeks ago, a lot has happened for the crew at Malt. They now open from 9.30 am and go right through to 1 am. And, and they now serve a delicious mix and match all-day brunch, making it more than just a good afternoon or evening stop over. You can read the full review here
Address: 46-48 Mac Thi Buoi, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Quan Ut Ut
Feted as one of the best BBQ places in all of Vietnam, Quan Ut Ut was bound to get bigger and better. But it’s not the BBQ I’m interested in because down here at their new location in Binh Thanh on the canal you can sit back at a proper bar, watch the passing parade and guzzle down some genuinely good craft beers.
So, while the rest of the crowd marvel at the giant smoker (which looks like a relic from the Hogwarts Express) and shovel down some pretty serious sides of meat, I’m finding myself here on an incredible journey through the burgeoning Vietnamese Craft beer scene.
My weekly foray has seen me sample a range of beers from not only local brewers such as BiaCraft, Pasteur Street Brewing Company, Fuzzy Logic, Te Te, Lac and Phat Rooster but also some imported craft beers from the Anderson Valley Brewing Company in California. Rogue Brewers in Oregon, Bach Brewing Company in New Zealand, and, more recently the Flying Monkey Brewery from Barrie in Canada.
The beer list is like a who’s who of craft beer styles. From the increasingly popular IPA’s, Blonde Ales, Wheat beers, Pale Ales, Lagers, Amber Ales, Brown Ales, Porters, and Stouts. All kinds of exotic, frothy offerings are available here.
Favourites on tap include Biacraft’s Đừng Chọc Tao (Don’t F*ck With Me) Pale Ale, Phat Rooster’s Saigon Blonde Ale and Pasteur Street Brewing Company’s Jasmine IPA.
Being a sucker for a good ale, my favourite foreign craft beer at the moment is the Dead Guy Ale from Rogue. At 6.5% ABV, it’s a German Style Ale with a deep honey color, a malty aroma, rich hearty flavour and a well-balanced finish.
So, if you’re passing by the canal in Binh Thanh drop in and sample a few of Saigon’s latest offerings. You won’t be disappointed. (PS. Quan Ut Ut has two locations. Read our full review here)
Address: 60 Truong Sa, Binh Thanh, Ho Chi Minh City
So these are our favourites and the reasons why. There are hundreds of bars in Saigon. Some good, some bad. You’ll never go wanting for a drink. But if it’s good value, excellent views and reasonable prices you’re after, you can’t go wrong with any of these.
Do you have a favourite we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments below.
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