It doesn’t matter what your preference is. We’ve got you covered for everything from food to museums, and some nightlife too. Sharing is caring after all.
You met someone nice and cute recently. Congratulations. Now comes the time to decide where to go to have a good time. That’s where we come in. Don’t worry, we won’t be joining you. But we hope dating in Ho Chi Minh City is smooth and natural for you, whether you’re a foreign man or a Vietnamese woman (and vice versa). Fun and comfort are essential, and touches of elegance, creativity and authenticity are appreciated whenever possible. This list should be a good start.
You’ve probably heard about…one of the many unoriginal chains not worth mentioning
We suggest…Vietphin Coffee
You can enjoy both a top local pick like a cafe sua da and a foreign favorite like a hot latte. And the banh mi ga (Vietnamese chicken sandwich) is the best I have had in all of Vietnam. I won’t eat this anywhere else now. The intimate atmosphere is also a plus. It’s not too big, so it’s never so loud you can’t hear your date talking. Coffee is an integral part of Vietnamese culture so we’re sure some of you have a favorite cafe that contradicts our choice. Perfectly OK! We hope you share that with us because we love trying different cafes, for our dates too. But no chains, please.
You’ve probably heard about…September 23 Park
We suggest…Crescent Mall Park
I once saw a guy hanging out with his pet iguana in September 23 Park. Kinda cool, right? You know what’s even better? Not scaring the crap out of your date by crossing paths with a giant lizard. I haven’t seen the green monster since that day, but I have also found a much more enjoyable park for dating in Ho Chi Minh City. Crescent Mall Park, also known as Ho Ban Nguyet Park, boasts a bridge that crosses a beautiful lake and takes you to a relaxing green space. At night the bright and colorful lights along the water really give the place a special glow. And when it gets too hot the Crescent Mall is next door. Go now, before the heat of April and May make being outside a bit more uncomfortable.
You’ve probably heard about…Banh Mi 37
We suggest…Oc Nhu
The “Banh Mi Lady,” as so many call her, is a staple of Saigon, and we’re not going to bash her, no matter how rude she can be at times. (Oops! #sorrynotsorry) We simply want to share an option that might be the best of Vietnamese street fare. Oc Nhu serves every kind of snail you can imagine, along with lemongrass-flavored clams, scallion-garnished mussels, and so much more. If you’re a foreigner trying to impress a local with your knowledge of the city, this is the spot for you. It’s kind of hidden — you have to venture down two alleys to get there. When your date asks you how you found it, just wink and smile. But go early. The place sometimes runs out of popular items by the middle of the lunch hour, which could destroy all the goodwill you just generated moments earlier.
You’ve probably heard about…The War Remnants Museum
We suggest…Artinus 3D Art Museum
War history doesn’t wow me on a date, which disqualifies Reunification Palace as well. I love reading about the ingenuity of Uncle Ho — it’s very impressive — but my preference is for something lighter and contemporary while dating in Ho Chi Minh City. The Artinus 3D Art Museum takes care of all of that. And it makes sense to have exactly this kind of museum. More and more movies nowadays are in 3D. So there’s no reason all our museums should house only old artifacts and paintings. And maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s harder for Cupid’s arrow to pierce your date’s heart when you’re looking at pointed objects that halted someone else’s heartbeat.
You’ve probably heard about…Hard Rock Cafe
The only reason the Hard Rock Cafe is not the worst cultural phenomenon in America is because the Backstreet Boys later beat them for the crown. (I’m American, and I feel it’s a good time to exercise my First Amendment rights. So there!) I also refuse to recommend an overpriced burger over some pretty good Italian food. My buddy thinks Pendo is the pizza messiah of Saigon. I wouldn’t go that far. But it’s quite good. And complaining that Pendo’s pie lacks the burnt and airy crust you can find at my favorite pizzeria in Italy is really nitpicking. Besides, the menu is full of other yummy goodness. Any homemade pasta is a can’t-miss item, and they even make a special turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The atmosphere is tasteful too, unlike the tacky interior at, well, you know.
You’ve probably heard about…one of the many rooftop or waterfront spots in town (and we’ll get to rooftops later)
We suggest…Saigon River Tour
Rooftops and waterfronts are great. A sunset cruise is better. Why just see the water when you can be on it by taking a tour? Your transport is a luxury speedboat and you get a free cocktail too. And this is not just a quick trip, like paragliding in Da Nang. You stay on the boat for 2 hours. That more than enough time to watch the sun slowly surrender to the horizon and see the bright city lights take their turn illuminating the skyline. Again, we’ll get to rooftops later. As for waterfront spots, a quick shout out to The Deck. We acknowledge your awesomeness and apologize for not having a category for you.
You’ve probably heard about…Secret Garden
We suggest…Mekong Kitchen
Even if you hate Bruce Springsteen’s music, you can’t hate the Secret Garden in Saigon. It’s great. The only problem is, it’s not a secret. A reservation is necessary. Mekong Kitchen, on the other hand, is still a bit of an unknown, like a precocious child who’s a year away from winning the spelling bee. That’s partly why the restaurant already tops our non-street-food-Vietnamese-cuisine category for dating in Ho Chi Minh City. The other reasons? The bo la lot (beef wrapped in betel leaves) is as good as it gets, and the thatched touches on the walls and ceilings make you feel like you’re deep in the Delta. Well, except for the air conditioning keeping you comfortable. But you know what I mean.
You’ve probably heard about…Saigon Outcast
We suggest…Saigon Outcast
What, you were expecting a beer pong tournament at a hostel near you? Saigon Outcast is a no-brainer. They offer a Burger Fest, a Craft Beer Festival and a lot of other events that are popular with both foreigners and locals. The most recent craft beer affair was extended from one day to two, to meet demand. And you don’t need an event to enjoy this place. You can hit the climbing wall or ride in the skate park and still drink plenty of quality beer while you’re at it. So let’s see: beer + climbing wall + skate park = lots of entertainment. You can’t find this kind of fun in a litigious country like America.
You’ve probably heard about…anywhere near Bui Vien with cheap beer
We suggest…The Racha Room
This is for you, foreign guys. I don’t care if your date smiles and says she likes going to Bui Vien “sometimes.” Maybe she’s just being polite. So don’t take that chance, and take her to Racha Room instead. A lot of their cocktails are 50% off from 3pm to 8pm, Monday through Saturday, and she will love the chic lounge ambience. The food is tasty as well, so order an appetizer and breathe a sigh of relief that you’re not sitting among a crowd of backpackers on a certain busy street. But exercise patience at The Racha Room as well. The bartenders and servers could be more attentive for such a nice place. Maybe it will get better.
You’ve probably heard about…a lot of places; we’re in Asia, after all
We suggest…Sushi Go
Don’t confuse this with Sushi Ko, which is a decent place for raw fish as well. But Sushi Go, in the little Japantown dissected by Pham Viet Chanh Street, is my go-to spot for Asian food. I’ll admit, I’m biased. My favorite type of Asian food is Japanese (with Vietnamese a close second) and my favorite food is sushi. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the menu at Sushi Go is full of delicious items at a great price. Unagi don for 128,000 VND? It’s hard to find that dish for less than 250,000! The place a few doors down charges almost 30% more, on average, for fare that’s not nearly as good. And don’t get me started on a certain chain that’s above average but more expensive and less tasty than the spot I’m recommending. So go to Sushi Go and get a sushi combo, a tonkatsu or one of the many other Japanese offerings on the menu. Enjoy the tiny setting too. You can use your library voice and still talk to your date with no trouble.
You’ve probably heard about…Sax n Art Jazz Club
We suggest…Broma: Not a Bar
Sax n Art might give you some good jazz, and a lounge-y atmosphere. But not much else. I lived in Harlem so the ambience does nothing for me. And the drinks are terribly terrible and expensive. (Yes, I was being intentionally superfluous.) At Broma, not only do you have Jazzy Thursday Night each week, you can get a lot more. Rock, acoustic, electronic, techno and other forms of music fill the week. Sure, a DJ blending stuff on his laptop might not be classic live music, but we gotta think about the millennials, no matter how much we disagree with them. And did I mention Jazzy Thursday?
You’ve probably heard about…Chill Skybar
We suggest…Level 23 Wine Bar
There’s a fine line between elegance and pretension so you can probably guess which one we feel falls on the good side of the metaphorical divide. And chill, Chill Skybar, people call me pretentious too. Anyway, that’s beside the point. We wanted something with wine on this list, in the interest of egalitarianism, so a pricey cocktail bar wasn’t a good fit here. Yes, we know Broma is on a rooftop too, but if we put it in every applicable category, it’ll get more recognition than Titanic at the Oscars. That leaves us with Level 23, which is wine plus more. Warning: it’s a bit pricey. A glass of pinot noir (my favorite) will run you 228,000 VND and cocktails start at 200,000 VND. Of course, if you really want to enjoy Saigon, you can’t always do it from the cheap seats. And Level 23 is worth the cost, especially when you’re gazing at the city lights with someone you like.
You’ve probably heard about…anything still open at 4 am on Bui Vien
We suggest…The Lighthouse
You might have noticed an anti-Bui Vien theme here. I know, I know. It’s unfair. Maybe someday we will learn to appreciate all the vomit and urination that lend Bui Vien a certain charm. Or, we’ll just recommend The Lighthouse, our favorite love child of a bar, club, lounge and rooftop. That’s diversity! You can shake it on the dance floor or chill on the rooftop, and you have plenty of time to do so. The doors don’t close until 5am, as long as there’s a decent crowd. If you’re not ready for bed by then, you’re…well, maybe you’re just in your early 20s, like a couple of my new French friends. But don’t burn yourself out. Maybe he or she will want to see you again the next day, and we’ve given you lots of options for dating in Ho Chi Minh City. Take advantage of them.
Have you decided yet?
So there you have it, a lucky list of 13. And these are just suggestions. We’re open to your ideas. Or, if you like ours and wanna buy us a couple of drinks, we’ll take a couple. The big thing is that we’re all having fun.