Hozu Hoang Dung is a low-key F&B entrepreneur in the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, with her acclaimed coffee shops Xofa Café & Bistro and All Day Coffee. Now, with more F&B projects bringing her south often, we asked her to show us the best cafes in Saigon to work in.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
Most travelers already know Vietnam is a pre-eminent destination for a cà phê sữa đá (traditional strong black coffee with condensed milk). But Saigon, being the most broad-minded and multi-cultural city in the country, has more than just that to offer. While most beans are still sourced locally from plateaus like Lam Dong or Dak Lak, veteran roasters are applying new brewing methods and adding novel ingredients to diversify their menu options. We’re thinking about Melbourne-like third-wave coffee, pour-over filter selections, locally accented cold brew, or coconut-blended coffee. Drinks that make the city a truly exciting destination for coffee devotees. And for digital nomads looking for the best cafes in Saigon to work in.
“Saigon has a venerable coffee scene,” says Hozu Hoang Dung confidently. She often travels to the highlands of Vietnam by herself to explore the origins of the coffee beans she uses and to understand their production. But, we wonder are the consumer differences between Saigon and Hanoi. “Well, compared to rather conventional Hanoians, Saigonese are more open-minded to creative drinks, hence the variety of coffee concoctions here…” she calmly explains.
So, The Dot Magazine caught up with Hozu Hoang Dung at All Day Coffee, Hanoi. There, she walked us through her choices of the best cafes in Saigon to work in…or simply to hide away from Saigon’s scorching heat.
1. Mekong Merchant Saigon
Mekong Merchant Saigon is a true all-rounder in the on-trend Thao Dien area. Besides their roastery churning out one of Saigon’s best blends, they also serve exquisitely brewed tea, healthy juices and smoothies, and there’s delicious happy-hour cocktails and most of all, the most affordable wine selection in suburban District 2.
And then there’s a full-day kitchen that offers an array of finger-licking dishes. “Smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel is my favourite,” Dung smiles sharing with us her most common order. “And I often pair it with a hot matcha cappuccino. I love a flavourful, creamy breakfast. Matcha provides clean, vegetal notes with a good kick of caffeine, while the milk balances with sweet creaminess. It keeps me energised for at least a couple hours…”
Mekong Merchant Saigon also celebrates lush and fresh produce, as well as tasty homemade ketchup, chilli sauce and jams. Get enticed by their rustic Scandinavian vibes, and fall in love with their mellow courtyard nestled away from the mayhem of the city and the chaos of Thao Dien. “It’s simply the go-to place for digital nomads who have their eyes glued to the computer screen all day. The vibrant menu and atmosphere will keep you invigorated. Promise.”
Location: 23 Thao Dien, District 2
2. The Workshop
Step into this sleek and stylish coffee shop and feel instantly at home (or at work as it’s one of the best cafes in Saigon to work in). The Workshop is located on the top level of an old Colonial-era building on busy Ngo Duc Ke street. Don’t be held back by the seemingly endless stairwell, this trendy cafe is definitely worth the climb!
The Workshop is one of the pioneers in applying modern brewing methods, like V60 pour-over, Chemex, and Aeropress in Saigon. “The beans are sourced both locally and from around the world, showing the shop’s efforts to cater to everyone’s taste,” Hozu Hoang Dung shares. “I try a different coffee each time I’m here. Ten different brewing methods for your personalised cup, can you believe it? My favourite one so far is the cold brew latte that is perfect for the endless summer in Saigon.”
The spacious coffee bar is dotted with an assortment of coffee roasting and brewing equipment and dynamic, knowledgeable baristas who will go the extra mile to provide excellent customer service.
With bright lights, industrial interiors that blend vintage and modern styles and Instagram-worthy café staples, you won’t find another cafe like this in town.
Location: 27 Ngo Duc Ke, District 1
3. L’Usine Thao Dien
The recent opening of its third branch in Thao Dien, District 2, proves all the hype about this well-loved lifestyle brand that combines dining with cool retail. The cafe-shop offers an exciting collection of curated brands and items that range from quirky to stylish, all of which are exclusive in L’Usine.
“The food is arguably the best find in town, but I always stick to healthy breakfasts like their yogurt with granola, banana, berries and honey which can’t go wrong, and a cà phê sữa đá.” Hozu Hoang Dung adores L’Usine primarily because of its innovative and trend-setting concept “Sometimes you need a creative space to think. L’Usine is my spot when I have time to immerse myself in deep thinking.”
L’Usine’s desserts are nevertheless delicious. Their fried banana and coconut ice-cream and chocolate lava cake are the bomb. And seasonal desserts like the chai pumpkin cake served during Thanksgiving will surely satisfy food fanatics with a major sweet tooth.
Location: 24 Thao Dien, District 2 – Crescent Mall, District 7 – 151 Dong Khoi, District 1
4. Là Việt Coffee Saigon
Craving caffeine and some booze at the same time? Là Việt Coffee offers the best of both worlds with its boozy coffee cold brew margarita. Or a double caffeine kick with tea and coffee combined in one drink? Là Việt Coffee has got you covered with a refreshing kumquat tea coffee. “And don’t even get me started on the classic marriage of two delicious essentials: espresso and ice-cream: Là Việt’s affogato. It’s extra frothy and seductive with an exquisite touch of coconut flavour…”
Unlike the majority of Vietnamese coffee shops that serve Robusta coffee, Là Việt’s focus is on Arabica beans, planted in the highland city of Dalat, and processed, roasted and brewed in its mini coffee factory in the same city . “Là Việt Saigon brings the spirit of Vietnam to the world – it conveys the values of Vietnamese agriculture, culture, and people,” Hozu Hoang Dung smiles warmly.
“The setting is lovely, hidden in a small alley on the border between District 1 and District 3. On weekdays, I’ll be chilling with a book in hand, or catching up with friends over an excellent latte, although you might want to avoid after-breakfast hours – it’s always packed”.
Besides being one of the best cafes in Saigon to work in, Là Việt Coffee Saigon also has its beans and coffee equipment on display and for sale. “One time I gifted a foreign friend with a set of three types of whole beans – rich with a bold, strong chocolate-y flavour, balanced with a vanilla delicate aftertaste and a package of tropical fruity, mild light coffee. It blew their minds!”
Location: 191 Hai Ba Trung, District 1 – 6D Tran Quang Dieu, District 3 – 57A Tu Xuong, District 3
5. Au Parc
“I’m always more productive in Au Parc. I don’t know…maybe watching the world go by in place with a laid-back Mediterranean vibe pushes me to think out of the box. It’s just my all-time best cafe in Saigon to work in.” Hozu Hoang Dung expresses her admiration toward one of the city’s hottest brunch destinations, and with good reason.
Putting a subtle twist on modern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, Au Parc long ago changed the game for brunch-goers. The earthy decor with original cement tiles, bare brick walls and the perfect central location opposite 30/4 Park complement a wide range of menu options made for even the pickiest of tastebuds. Think the luscious Argentinian beef kebabs and home-made hummus dip – once you enter this charming colonial building, you will never want to leave!
In Au Parc, coffee is made Italian style. “I love a warm cappuccino, extra hot if I stay in A/C. But sometimes I indulge myself with some rejuvenating fresh air on the terrace and a full Turkish brunch. It comes with a coffee of your choice. I might also order an iced Americano to cool off in Saigon’s heat.” But, like in other places, Hozu Hoang Dung lets her mood decide which coffee she is going for in another of Saigon’s best cafes to work in.
Location: 23 Han Thuyen, District 1
6. Okkio Caffe
Walking up Okkio’s red concrete stairs feels like escaping to a peaceful world away from Saigon. Tucked away down a cute bustling city alley off Lê Lợi, Okkio Caffe is one of the rare dens that give you a sensation of calmness amidst constantly moving Saigon. Taking inspiration from Japanese cafes, Okkio Caffe is all about the little details – fresh flower arrangements, carefully selected book collections and romantic vibes with dulcet music you can’t help humming along to.
Okkio Caffe is committed to excellent coffee. Beans are strictly chosen from the best coffee-producing countries like Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia and of course, Vietnam. They offer an amazing array of options, including espresso and cà phê sữa đá, Italian norms like cappuccino, latte, and mocha, and modern styles like pour-over and cold-drip coffee, but the stars are their signature coconut blended coffee and egg coffee.
“They are both spellbindingly good, I don’t mind overdosing myself with more than one shot of caffeine when I come here,” Hozu Hoang Dung says about the best-sellers she’s fallen in love with.
“The retro-nostalgic interior design makes you live in the moment and appreciate the aroma of coffee while looking out at chaotic Ben Thanh market. It’s one of the best cafes in Saigon to work in. The city is indeed mayhem, but gems like this make Saigon an adorable city…”
Location: 120 – 122 Le Loi, District 1
Photos of Hozu by Jerry Tuan Tran.