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District 2 - a guide to eating in Saigon's expat enclave

| 22 Nov 2018
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District 2 - a guide to eating in Saigon's expat enclave

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22 Nov 2018

Some of Saigon’s best restaurants and cafes are now located across the Saigon River in District 2 - aka. D2 or Thao Dien.  What was once a quiet expat enclave has become a little hotbed of dining, cafes, drinking, shopping and more. If you’re spending more than a few days in Saigon, it’s worth making the trip out to District 2.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

Once a small expat enclave, Saigon’s District 2 has become a major residential centre with fancy apartment blocks and gated compounds. This is where a high percentage of the city’s well-paid expats choose to live. And it’s increasingly a centre for Vietnam’s fast growing affluent class too. The gentrification has been accompanied by a blossoming restaurant scene - especially for international cuisine.

There’s nothing especially Saigon or Vietnam about D2. It’s a generic, gentrified, globalised urban zone with international food and cafe options to match - though most of the businesses are owner-operated which is nice.

There are some good Vietnamese eateries here too. Residents are attracted to the riverside location and the relative quiet - compared with downtown Saigon.

District Federal Mexican Restaurant, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer District Federal Mexican Restaurant, District 2, Saigon
 
Kokois Cafe and concept store, District 2, Saigon
Kokois Cafe and concept store, District 2, Saigon
 

Booming population growth, traffic chaos and construction upheaval in downtown Saigon make D2 an increasingly appealing place to hang out - though D2 is dealing with its own growing pains with increasingly clogged streets and problems with regular flooding.

Restaurant and cafe spaces tend to be nicer in D2 - you're more likely to find a garden and some greenery. Rents are less onerous than downtown Saigon. There are more places for kids too - there are many families living in this area.

Here are a few of the places worth checking out in District 2. Things move fast so we’ll keep updating this list.

 

District 2 - best streets for restaurants

District 2’s restaurants are spread across many streets but there is a heavy concentration of eateries along Xuan Thuy St, Thao Dien and Ngo Quang Huy. Most restaurants are western - burgers, Italian, French as well as cafes. There are also a couple of Thai options.

Take a walk along Xuan Thuy St from Quoc Huong St, towards Thao Dien and then back up Ngo Quang Huy - you’ll be spoiled for choice across all three streets. There are also a few drinkeries if you get thirsty along the way.

 

Best cafes in District 2

Mekong Merchant

Mekong Merchant was one of the first businesses to spot the potential of the D2 area. They set up their rustic cafe more than a decade ago and have been riding the growth in the area ever since. The menu’s extensive, the feel is casual and welcoming. The owners also own the nearby upscale eatery, The Deck, on the Saigon River.

Address: 23 Thao Dien St, An Phu, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

Mekong Merchant, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Mekong Merchant, District 2, Saigon

 

Kokois

Just up the road from Mekong Merchant, Kokois combines a hipster cafe, concept store and boutique. 

Address: 24 Thao Dien St, An Phu, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

Kokois Cafe and concept store, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Kokois Cafe and concept store, District 2, Saigon

 

An Cafe

We haven’t eaten here yet but we’ve had drinks a few times. It’s a lovely, serene locally owned space - with a local feel.

Address: 10 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

An Cafe, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer An Cafe, District 2, Saigon

 

Factory Contemporary Art Centre Cafe

The Factory’s an art space with a little cafe attached - perfect after you’ve checked out their latest exhibition.  We’ve not tried the food and it seems to only be open when there is an exhibition under way.

For more on Saigon's art scene, check out our guide to the city's galleries.

Address: 15 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Saigon

 

Soma Art Cafe

Soma Art Cafe has become a District 2 hub of events and arty stuff. It’s also a cool place to grab a coffee by day or a drink by night. It's owned by the same people behind Saigon Outcast, a large event space also in D2.

Address: 6b Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, Ho Chi Minh City, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam

Soma Art Cafe, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Soma Art Cafe, District 2, Saigon

 

Snap Cafe

Snap Cafe seems to be especially popular with families - day and night. So if you’re travelling with kids, stop by here for dependable cafe food in a relaxed space.

Address: 32 Tran Ngoc Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

Snap Cafe, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Snap Cafe, District 2, Saigon

 

Vintage Emporium District 2

The original Vintage Emporium in downtown Saigon has long been a favourite hangout. Now they’ve opened a big new place in District 2. It’s probably the fanciest cafe in the expat enclave and has the same tasty cafe fare as the original. There’s indoor and outdoor seating. It’s slightly hidden down a mellow lane.

Address: 1 Duong 39, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

Vintage Emporium, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Vintage Emporium, District 2, Saigon


For coffee specialists, check out these places -

Spin Cafe

A French-owned quirky coffee specialist. Very stripped back. The coffee’s served from a bicycle cart.

Address: 86-102 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

Spin Cafe, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Spin Cafe, District 2, Saigon

 

Dolphy

A funky little corner stall - good for watching the D2 world go by over a Vietnamese coffee.

Address: 31 Duong Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

Dolphy Cafe, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Dolphy Cafe, District 2, Saigon

 

 

 

Restaurants in District 2

District Federal

District Federal opened in 2017 and has filled a gap for Mexican cuisine with a festive feel and colourful decor. There’s a real buzz to this place - even on quiet nights.

Address: 84 Xuan Thuy, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

District Federal Mexican Restaurant, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer District Federal Mexican Restaurant, District 2, Saigon
 

The Boat House

Looking out across the Saigon River, the Boat House has a relaxed pub feel with an extensive menu. It describes itself as an American and Mexican restaurant.  Good for families. Live tunes on Sunday afternoons.

Address: 40 Lily Road, APSC, 36 Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

The Boat House, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer The Boat House, District 2, Saigon

 

Bep Vo

This little neighbourhood eatery serves Vietnamese cuisine influenced by the flavours of Qui Nhon - the hometown of the owner. If you want an unfussy Vietnamese bite in District 2 that is not on the street, this is a good stop.

Address: 72 Nguyen Cu, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

Bep Vo, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Bep Vo, District 2, Saigon
 

The Deck

The Deck’s one of the most popular restaurants in D2 on account of its outstanding riverside setting and cool, modern design. The cuisine is modern international and it’s on the high side for pricing - as you'd expect in the setting.

Head out for happy hour cocktails and you can work out whether to stay around for dinner.

Address: 38 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City.

Sunset cocktails - The Deck District 2
Photo: Mark Bowyer Sunset cocktails - The Deck District 2
 

Lu Bu Mediterranean Restaurant

Australian owned Lubu has become something of a District 2 institution with excellent Mediterranean cuisine and a wine list to match. Casual, quality dining in a cool white space.

Address: 97 Thao Dien, An An Phu, Q2, Ho Chi Minh

Lu Bu Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Lu Bu Saigon

 

Mad House

Clean Scandinavian flavours in an open garden setting - cafe and casual dining.

Address: 6/1/2 Nguyen U Di, Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

Mad House, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Mad House, Saigon

 

Quan Bui

Quan Bui is a long-time a favourite Vietnamese restaurant in District 1 that’s expanded into D2. Good Vietnamese flavours in a mellow space of indoor and outdoor dining.

Address: 55 Ngo Quang Huy, Thao Dien, Ho Chi Minh City

 

Pasta Fresca

Hidden little friendly pasta joint - delicious simplicity from a concise menu. This place is very popular with expats.

Address: Down the lane - 28 Thao Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

The guys behind Pasta Fresca, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer The guys behind Pasta Fresca, District 2, Saigon

 

The Bloq

The Bloq is a newish cluster of eateries and boutiques in a shipping container styled complex in D2. If you haven’t decided where or what you want to eat, it’s not a bad place to make a decision. There’s Thai (Tuk Tuk) Italian (Cugini), Vietnamese (Chi Hoa), German and more. We’ve only tried a couple of these places. There are also some places to grab a drink including the curious Bip Bip Cafe and mojito bar.

Address: 19 Tran Ngoc Dien, District 2, Ho Chi Minh City

The Bloq, District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer The Bloq, District 2, Saigon


Street eats in District 2

There are a surprising number of local eateries scattered among the fancy international eateries of District 2. I haven’t tried them but I’m sure if they’re busy, they’ll be fine.

Local eateries continue to thrive in District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Local eateries continue to thrive in District 2, Saigon

 
Local eateries continue to thrive in District 2, Saigon
Photo: Mark Bowyer Local eateries continue to thrive in District 2, Saigon
 

There are loads more dining options in D2 as well. Head out for a look.

Disclosure
Rusty Compass recommendations are always independent. We list the places we think you should know about - that’s it. We tried all these places (unless otherwises mentioned) and pay our way  (unless otherwise mentioned). No money changed hands for inclusion in this list.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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