Epicureans who crave street food but are weary of falling ill can come to this French villa near the Reunification Palace. The rumor mill has it that the owner poached the best street vendors in town and offered them stalls in the restaurant. In their individual stations around the perimeter of the courtyard, chefs prepare classic Vietnamese dishes like goi du du (green papaya salad), cha gio (crispy spring rolls filled with pork and shrimp), and banh xeo (savory crepes filled with pork, shrimp, mushrooms, and crunchy bean sprouts). The menu is extensive and a good introduction to Vietnamese street food for both experts and newbies alike.
• Nam Giao, 136/15 Le Thanh Ton
Tucked away down an alley near the Ben Thanh Market, Nam Giao is a local favorite for the regional specialties of Hue, the ancient imperial capital of Vietnam. While the restaurant offers a range of selections from the central coast region, the choice dishes are bun bo Hue (beef noodle soup) and banh beo (bite-size rice cakes topped with dried, minced shrimp and fried shallots).
• The Refinery, 74 Hai Ba Trung
In the early 1900s, nearly a quarter of Indochina's national budget was from the sale of opium. The production of opium and its consumption were in vogue until the end of French colonial rule, and 74 Hai Ba Trung was at the heart of Saigon's nefarious trade. Today, the courtyard of this former poppy factory houses a handful of businesses and cafes. And when you crave a crocque monsieur or a western, multi-course brunch, then slip inside The Refinery for a brief respite from the hustle of Saigon's boisterous streets.
• Fruit, everywhere
Indulging in street cart food is par for the course in 'Nam, but we can't be held liable for any missteps. The mum's rule of thumb is that if it can be boiled, peeled, cooked, or fried, then it can be eaten. Satisfying the peeled criteria, eating fruit in Vietnam is high on the list of recommendations. Some of the country's tropical varieties will never be found in American markets, and even if they can be sourced, their prices will prompt one to risk the reprimand of U.S. Customs—a kilo of mangosteens in Vietnam will set you back about $2 bucks, whereas just one will run you about $6 at Dean and DeLuca.