“Where the hell is all the coffee, Nick! Nobody cares about your personal bullshit. Show me the black gold!”
I hear you. This post is the first of many where we’ll dive into the wonderful, addictive world of Vietnamese coffee. Every couple weeks I’ll keep you updated on each place I sip, slurp, guzzle, inject, snort, huff, and burn my mouth on the world’s drug of choice.
So grab a cup…start fidgeting…and try to pay attention. By the time we’re done (never), you’ll know Saigon’s cafe scene like the back of your twitching hands.
(Cost in the info section refers to the cost of a standard iced coffee or ca phe da unless otherwise noted.)
Address: 15 Nguyễn Thị Huỳnh Street, Ward 8, Phú Nhuận District • Show me!
Cost: 35,000 VND • $1.60
Hours: 8 am to 11 pm
Contact: 08 22 113 544 • thefigcafe.net
The Fig is almost hidden on a narrow street. You wouldn’t just stumble upon it unless you were looking for it.
And that’s a shame, because this place is fantastic.
It’s divided into two areas—a tranquil outdoor patio surrounding a Buddha statue and pond, and an inviting indoor room with relaxed music, comfortable chairs and tasteful decor.
If the stars have aligned and you can bear sitting outside in the heat…do so. If not, don’t feel bad. Just come back at night.
Besides having above-average coffee, The Fig’s other main draw is its extensive and satisfying dessert menu. Check out this pumpkin stuffed with coffee-flavored flan.
Prices are a little higher than average—almost 2 bucks for an iced coffee isn’t exactly cheap for Saigon—but the dessert alone is worth visiting. Oh, and that pumpkin up there? Less than three bucks.
The cafe is small, so flagging down waiters isn’t a problem. Plenty of pictures on the menu to help you make a decision. And unless you go right during the lunch or dinner rush, it’s damn quiet.
All in all a good place to work or have a date.
Seriously, try that pumpkin. (Bánh flan bí đỏ)
Address: 100 Ung Văn Khiêm Street, Ward 25, Bình Thạnh District • Show me!
Cost: 22,000 VND • $1.01
Hours: 6:30 am to 11 pm
Contact: 09 82 123 122 • Facebook
Dong Xanh is right around the corner in my neck of the woods. It’s a country-style cafe—popular throughout urban Vietnam that attempts to seize peace and harmony from the concrete jungle.
Dong Xanh is hamstrung by the fact that it sits right on a busy road. It looks the part of a rural cafe but all the plants in Asia can’t block out the din of horns and engines on Ung Van Khiem.
The building is lined by a moat and crawling with ivy and other dense plants, and the interior is split into three distinct seating areas.
The large ground floor is a little cramped and always smokey despite Vietnam’s ban on lighting up in air-conditioned buildings (a common theme, you’ll see).
Up the dimly lit stairs is an outdoor patio with misting fans and a fish pond. There’s also another indoor area with much stronger AC if you feel so inclined—plus, people smoke less frequently here.
Dong Xanh’s menu has all the usual suspects from lunch to smoothies to liquor. My favorite drink here is coffee with condensed milk and Bailey’s, but rum and other spirits are also an option.
You’ll also find a few menu items that might seem a bit off-the-wall…like lime coffee (pictured at the very top of this page). Feel free to skip that one.
Service at Dong Xanh is pretty friendly, but I’ve had problems asking for less or no sugar before.
I’ve worked here many times in the past, but honestly this cafe is more for socializing. I just like the atmosphere…and it’s close to my house.
Address: 77B Hàm Nghi Street, Bến Thành Ward, District 1 • Show me!
Cost: 29,000 VND • $1.33
Hours: 8 am to 10:30 pm
Contact: 09 09 368 201 • Facebook
Don’t worry if you pull up to 77B and don’t see the entrance to La Rotonde. Someone (probably the parking attendant) will usher you towards the tiny side door.
Up the cramped spiral staircase is one of Saigon’s best cafes—centrally located, not TOO expensive and with good coffee and food.
Oh, and did I mention the corner view?
Probably due to dark magic, the sky turns gray and threatens rain every time I come here. But the unique corner location and many windows and skylights make La Rotonde a cozy place to while away the afternoon, especially in a downpour.
The past couple times I’ve been here have been in search of green tea mille crepe and ice cream—a cake made from carefully folded stacks of crepe dough. The waiters assure me it’s still on the menu, but I’ve been unlucky so far.
Oh well. La Rotonde was the first cafe I visited in Saigon that made me think “hmm, maybe coffee is actually good.” That was during my second week in the city, and my opinion hasn’t changed since.
The decor here is tastefully arranged and uncluttered. The music isn’t too loud, and they don’t play annoying pop music like many cafes. The waiters are friendly and speak English well, though a bit slow on fresh glasses of tea. Minor.
La Rotonde has two levels once you get up the staircase—the main floor and a smaller loft that overlooks the room below. The peaked roof is opened up with gaping skylights, and the handful of tables up here are totally worth snagging if the upstairs AC is on.
Like many bigger cafes in the city, La Rotonde has a full menu including smoothies, snacks, meals, desserts and mojitos?
In my opinion, you could work or socialize here equally well. My only gripe is that the tables aren’t an ideal height for typing, but the chairs are comfortable enough to make up for it.