Hanoi’s expat population exceeds 10,000 souls and there are tens of thousands of tourists who visit year-round. At any given time, there are likely 100,000 or more foreigners in Vietnam’s energetic and often chaotic capital city.
There are scores of restaurants in the city that cater to Western tastes. These are great places to indulge in comfort food from “back home” and meet up with other expats and visitors.
Ask any expat who has the best pizza in Hanoi, and you’ll likely be sent to 4P’s Pizza. It’s an enormously popular pizzeria in the heart of the historic Old Quarter that serves up a delicious assortment of Italian-Japanese fusion pizzas and pastas from their wood-fired ovens.
The Real Kangaroo Café, a casual Australian-owned restaurant just a block from Hoan Kiem Lake, serves up excellent cuisine from down under, including bangers and mash, a proper fish and chips, meat pies and some of the best value Western breakfasts in the city.
Tucked among the beautiful French colonial buildings near the Fine Arts Museum, Bar Betta is a nostalgic restaurant and bar that has a loyal expat following. The western food is quite good and it’s a cosy place to have a bite or a drink and check out the vintage posters, gramophones, LP records and other memorabilia.
One of the most popular expat restaurants in town is the Canadian-owned Moose and Roo Smokehouse. It’s a perfect place for hearty platters of slow-smoked barbecued ribs, brisket, sausages, chicken, wings and burgers. They have a full bar too, with possibly the best top-shelf bourbon collections in Vietnam. It’s located at the American Club in the French Quarter within easy walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake.
Many foreigners live in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District and there are dozens of excellent restaurants where you can meet up with friends and explore a cornucopia of cuisines. One of the best is Cousins Restaurant. They’ve been around for years and have a loyal expat following. The French-influenced Western menu features grilled lamb cutlets, fish and chips, an ever-changing specials board and a wide assortment of salads and mains.
The Mexican-American owner of Anita’s Cantina serves up what is arguably the most authentic Mexican food in Hanoi and his restaurant is extremely popular among the expat community. It’s tucked away on one of Tay Ho’s side streets near Hanoi’s largest lake.
The Sidewalk is a popular Tay Ho restaurant and bar that serves kangaroo steaks, curries and other foods and drinks. They often have live music on weekends and attract a lively crowd.
Ete Resto Bar, in Ba Dinh District, has a bar downstairs and a restaurant on the second level. Expats enjoy coming here for the massive western-style salads and burgers, then socialise over drinks with the many foreign and local regulars.
Hanoi doesn’t have quite the nightlife scene as you’d find in Nha Trang or Ho Chi Minh City, but there’s still dozens of excellent bars and nightclubs to choose from. As is the case with restaurants, you’ll find most of these places in the Old Quarter and in Tay Ho District.
There are several good bars in the Old Quarter. The Polite & Co. was one of the first Western bars in Hanoi. It has been around for decades and is popular with old-timers and newcomers alike for its cocktails and speakeasy ambiance, while the nearby Doors Café offers live classical rock music.
The newly opened Standing Bar, near Truc Bach Lake between the Old Quarter and Tay Ho, has a large selection of craft beers and tapas. Despite their name, there is plenty of seating. They also sponsor a comedy night.
The Tadioto Café is one of the few bars in Hanoi that has a non-smoking area. Besides beer and cocktails, they also serve sushi, coffee and other non-alcoholic beverages. Tadioto is in the French Quarter, within easy walking distance of Hoan Kiem Lake. The inside is tastefully furnished with comfortable chairs and has a cosy, attractive ambiance. They sponsor jazz nights and poetry readings and support many progressive causes around town. It’s been an expat’s favourite for many years.
If you enjoy beer but aren’t into bars, be sure to check out one of the many bia hơi’s in Hanoi. Besides selling fresh draught beer, they offer tasty and inexpensive local cuisine. You’ll find bia hơi’s on many of Hanoi’s street corners; they are often packed full of locals and foreigners. A beer costs around 50 cents, which might be why these are such popular eating and drinking venues. I recommend the bia hoi at the corner of Hang Vai and Bat Su in the Old Quarter. Their food is always fresh and delicious—their grilled short ribs are my favourite.