This ancient lantern-dotted town has long been a highlight for travelers on a food pilgrimage through Vietnam. Renowned for its regional dishes like cao lầu, white rose dumplings, and mì quảng, there are plenty more delights on offer here from the myriad restaurants and cafes lining the streets. From vegan buffets hidden down tiny alleyways to historic buildings serving charcuterie and Swedish meatballs, Hội An packs a huge flavor punch for such a small destination. After living here for 14 months and visiting yearly, here are some of the best places to try, both Vietnamese and not, on your next visit.
MAKE IT QUICK
When in Hội An, cao lầu is practically obligatory. You’ll see sign after sign advertising this local pork dish made with its special chewy rice noodles (crafted with water from the ‘magical’ Bá Lễ well), char siu-style pork, greens, herbs, cracklin’ and a small serving of slightly sweet broth. But down a narrow alley in Hội An’s old town is one of the area’s best. This place is always packed, but don’t worry, bowls are served within seconds, and locals are in and out.
SEE AND BE SEEN
Market Bar, as it’s known around town, is the place for happy hour drinks and prime people watching. Located on the terrace above the Hội An Market, you’ll see ladies in conical hats crossing the street, motorbikes whizzing by and boats puttering down the river. The top-notch team here serves an impressive variety of infused G&T’s like fig and pistachio as well as gin infusions like phở. They also have Vietnamese-inspired cocktails like the Ode To The Hội An Chili, made with, you guessed it, local chilis. You’ll definitely need food to go with these. The fries with a variety of salts are a favorite, as are the meat and cheese boards. If you’re looking for something bigger, try the fish & chips.
HOLD THE MEAT
There are a handful of vegan spots popping up around town, but none more Vietnamese than this alley-side buffet. You can try vegan and vegetarian versions of Vietnamese classics like phở, cao lầu, bánh cuốn and more, but the buffet is your best bet. It changes daily and is typically packed with veggies, tofu and, if you’re lucky, grilled jackfruit. Point to the items that look good (there’s no English here), and they’ll fill up a plate for no more than a few dollars.
IF IT AIN'T BROKE
Like moths to a delicious, delicious flame, you’ll always find a pack of people crowded around this Hội An institution. With the Anthony Bourdain seal of approval, it’s been the most popular bánh mì place in town for years. There are a lot of options on the menu, but the pork bánh mì with all the fixings, especially the pâté and chili, is a solid choice, as is the egg bánh mì.
Things in Hội An close early, so after a day of drinking Huda and Larue by the river, late-night options are very limited. Snag a tiny stool at this spot for traditional home-style dishes that are sure to soak up some of that alcohol. “Mama” and her family are kind and willing to help with your order, but the bò kho is the reason you come here. This hearty, traditional beef stew is the go-to served with a baguette for dipping.
START ME UP
Rosie’s is a much-loved breakfast spot for expats and tourists looking for a bit of comfort food. Two lovely friends, My and Thuy, run this open-air, all-day breakfast spot. The menu includes everything from a terrific avo toast to house-baked granola and yogurt paired with juices, smoothies or heart-stoppingly strong Vietnamese coffee. For lunch, try the chicken tacos and the brunch wrap. With Instagram in mind, everything here looks as good as it tastes.
THE HOT SPOT
Surrounded by Cẩm Thanh’s postcard rice paddies is this much-anticipated new addition to Hội An’s dining scene. At the helm is Long Phan of the popular Hanoi restaurant Bao Wow, serving colorful fusion plates using local ingredients. Order inventive dishes like the Cham Island scallop ceviche, a tomato salad using fresh Da Lat tomatoes and finish it off with hibiscus gelato. This chic, sprawling restaurant with an open kitchen and roof terrace is perfect for a night out in Hội An.
Inside a 100+-year-old French home is one of Hội An’s best restaurants. The menu reflects its Norwegian and Thai ownership with unbeatable Thai basil stir fry with chicken (pad gra prow) and Scandinavian meatballs. While the menu may sound eclectic, it’s consistently delicious and top-quality. They also serve sandwiches, including a piled-high Reuben, as well as salads. Come during happy hour from 4-6 pm, and you’ll find people here sipping rosé and devouring the best meat and cheese boards in town. While it’s not exactly a dollar stretcher by Vietnamese standards, the historical setting, relaxed vibe and food are unbeatable if you're carrying USD.
ON THE STREET
There’s no better Hội An food tradition than riverside barbecue. Located on Cam Nam island, these family-run street sellers set up plastic chairs and makeshift tables straddling the Thu Bon River. Here you’ll find groups of men and families with buckets of beer, snacking on bites as the sun sets and the lantern-lit river boats appear. At Nếm, the menu is only in Vietnamese, and English is limited, but if you’re an adventurous eater, just point and let the food come to you. Try to order the stand-out dishes, including grilled chicken, whole or half, rau muống (morning glory) and fried squid in a chili fish sauce.