RESTAURANTS - Around Pham Ngu Lao

So many places! Generally the action has moved off Pham Ngu Lao onto Bui Vien Street and the alleys off Pham Ngu Lao – like up 175 Pham Ngu Lao (see Margarita below) or up 185 Pham Ngu Lao – just east of De Tham St – where there are little places locals eat at, plus traveler cafes like BI SAIGON (185/26 Pham Ngu Lao) where you can get 10,000D (US$0.65) fruit shakes, western breakfast and Vietnamese dishes. If you’re looking for Vietnamese food around here, PHO 24 (see below) is good, or try the open-air restaurants after 5pm at the nearby Ben Thanh Market.

Western Food

This little cafe serves homemade baked goods, like a 8000D (US$0.50) carrot muffin, plus bagels and tuna melt sandwiches (35,000D; US$2.20) and daily soups. Everything goes to benefit local disadvantaged families – helping with jobs, training. Sozo began in 1997, eventually raising money by selling cookies by push-cart vendors. Ask about volunteer options. WiFi access here.
Tel 095-870-6580,, 176 Bui Vien

For years and years, this alley pizza place has made reasonable pies for those sick of rice and noodles. It’s humble – there’s no change to their old tile floors for nearly a decade – but if you get the alley tables it’s a good place to sit over beer well after the pizza is gone. Pastas too: veggie lasagna is 26,000D (US$1.65), marinara pasta 35,000D (US$2.20).
175/1 Pham Ngu Lao; pizzas 29,000 to 66,000D (US$1.85 to US$4.15); open 8am to midnight or so

For flat-out staring, the run-down, tiny, triangular Santa is in a world of its own. Get a sidewalk table where crusty Do Quang Dau St (home to pig parts and barber shops) meets the ‘new Pham Ngu Lao’ Bui Vien. All of Saigon seems to pass – street vendors, soccer-playing kids, cyclo drivers, tourists. The food’s fine – stick with the Vietnamese (all sorts of rice and noodles, veggie too). Breakfasts are 9000D to 25,000D (US$0.60 to US$1.60), fruit shakes 6000D to 10,000D (US$0.40 to US$0.65), burgers 22,000D (US$1.40). It’s fine to sit and just have a beer or two.
Corner of Do Quang Dau & Bui Vien Sts

A shot at modernizing the backpacker scene, this Italian-run restaurant has a stark, modern layout with curved wicker-back seats and gray matte tables for its Italian dishes (spaghetti, lasagna, fettucine) and English breakfasts (60,000D; US$3.80). There’s pizza, but they put more into their pastas. There’s free WiFi too.
Tel 08-836-9220; 121 Bui Vien St; open 8am to midnight

Craving a pizza buffet? This modern, three-floor place is like walking into a teleport to a Des Moines mall. Lots of food for cheap though. Pizza buffets run 11.30am to 1.30 pm (32,000D; US$2) and 6.30 to 9.30pm (65,000D; US$4) weekdays. A small pizza is 40,000D (US$2.50). There’s also ribs and breakfasts – that sort of place.
Tel 08-920-4989; 111 Bui Vien St; open 7am to midnight

For something completely different: lamb or veggie kebab with fries, biscuit and fruit juice (about 45,000D; US$2.85).
115 Bui Vien St; open 8am to 2am

GO 2
More of a hang-out than a food place – fruit shakes are 30,000D (US$1.90), about two times the going rate – but it’s certainly a nice place to hang, on the corner of busy De Tham and Bui Vien Streets. American breakfast is really an English one (50,000D; US$3.15), there’s also noodles and western food on hand.
Tel 08-836-9575; 187 De Tham St; open 6am to late

Vietnamese Food

PHO 24
A franchise in communist Vietnam? Still in its infancy, Pho 24 has made quite a splash already – with fresh ingredients and artful décor (plus air conditioning!) and good food at 21 (and counting) locations around Saigon. The beef noodle soup (24,000D; US$1.50) is as good as you can find, as are the fruit shakes (18,000 to 20,000D; US$1.15 to US$1.25) – though it’s a little more expensive than the hole-in-the-wall pho shops. Popular with locals and foreigners. Easily among the best Vietnamese food in Pham Ngu Lao area.
271 Pham Ngu Lao; open 7am to late

Basic family-run vegetarian restaurant with Vietnamese dishes for cheap.
Tel 08-837-3713; 185/30 Pham Ngu Lao

Return to RESTAURANTS home