A Few thoughts on HCMC: Part 1 – BBQ Restaurants

One kind of restaurants that deserves special attention from tourists in Ho Chi Minh City are BBQ restaurants. Here’s a look at two of their better (known) ones…

Anyone who’s been here for any length of time in Saigon can carry on about the glut of good dining options available in the city, and the limitless choices for choosing a ‘favorite’ restaurant. However the two barbecue restaurants I’ve mentioned below have earned, for what it’s worth, a special respect from yours truly by dint of their approval from those I know who were born here, or at least speak the lingo.

A case of casting pearls before swine perhaps, but being very easily pleased by just about anything that’s thrown onto my plate leaves this particular blogger well short of the motivation to venture beyond walking distance in order to seek out any culinary Shangri-La, i.e the ‘authentic’ dining experiences undefiled by tourist hordes and prices.

Nonetheless, it’s very difficult to make friends with either Saigon natives, or Overseas Vietnamese staying in their ancestral homeland, and not have your tentative, yet garden variety, suggestions for dinner immediately shunted aside in favour of being shuffled off-guide book to a suburban side street restaurant. And yes, despite usually being kitted out quite blandly (they often remind me of a supersize version of my grandparent’s car garage in the days leading up to Christmas), they do inevitably taste just as good as, and certainly costs significantly less than, the dolled-up restaurants now hovering around the tourist ghetto of Dong Khoi.

However there is one notable exception to this rule. All the BBQ Restaurants these guys have taken me to have been deep in the heart of tourist zones. In fact, the two most regularly visited have to be among the most unsecret restaurants in the whole city grand ones they were too – 3T Restaurant, deep in the heart of the city behind the Sunwah Building, and the BBQ restaurant that sits on top of GO2 Bar, perhaps the most popular bar in the backpacker district. If you had a prize for Most Touristy Restaurants in Saigon, these two would give it a very good shot.

3T Restaurant is in every serious guidebook about the city, and from what I’ve seen you’d be running a big risk turning up without a reservation even midweek in low season. Which more or less means it’s so clogged with customers, particularly tourists, it just wreaks of being overpriced, overrated, and somewhere no tourist with any pretensions at all of really seeing Saigon would touch with a barge pole, let alone a local.

Meanwhile the restaurant on top of Go2Bar (and apologies if it does in fact have another name, but you can’t really miss it if you know it as that, can you?) is at the top of the bar and club just about everyone tends to end up at later in the night in the backpacker area of Phum Ngu Lao, and is on the corner of the intersection which surely gets pounded by more clapped out sweaty flip flops than any other in the Phum Ngu Lao area (certainly more popular these days than any intersection attached to the actual Phum Ngu Lao street). So you might be surprised they’d see the need to whip up anything all to lure in the backpackers who make this neighborhood what it is, let alone draw in custom from outside, given the amount of traffic they’d automatically get by virtue of their locale.

So if my experiences are anything at all to go back, both of these places have the respect of locals, regardless of their relative cost. So, ignore your lying eyes if you come to either of these restaurants, they’re the real thing.

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