Top Must-Try Restaurants in Hanoi – A Local’s Guide

Hanoi’s food scene is a dynamic blend of tradition and innovation, offering an endless range of dishes to explore. This list of must-try restaurants in Hanoi is written with our love and understanding of the authentic tastes that define Hanoi, tastes that evoke our memories of shared meals and cherished moments when growing up and living in this city. From traditional dishes at long-standing establishments to contemporary ones that delight the palate, we want our guide to be a celebration of all that Hanoi has to offer.

a street in Hanoi Old Quarter.

Long was born and grew up in Hanoi, and I also spent 5 years studying and working in the city. Even though we have moved to Saigon and have traveled abroad a lot, there’s still this excitement whenever we’re back in Hanoi, revisiting old favorites and discovering new ones. The food in Hanoi continues to captivate and comfort us, no matter how much time has passed.

We will start this guide with a brief overview of Hanoi cuisine and food scene. After that, you will find a list of our must-eat places in Hanoi, as well as the old favorites we haven’t revisited.

A Few Things to Note

The traditional cuisine of Hanoi is renowned for its simplicity, elegance, and balance of flavors, featuring dishes that are both flavorful and aromatic. Generally, Northern Vietnamese dishes often have a more balanced and subtle flavor profile, while Southern cuisine is bolder, with sweeter and spicier notes.

Hanoians, Long included, have this thing about food. They are quite picky eaters, maybe even a bit stubborn about keeping things traditional. This characteristic can sometimes be a good thing, as it can act as a guardian of the city’s culinary heritage, ensuring that traditional dishes retain their authenticity and continue to be made according to age-old recipes and methods.

the front of Banh Cuon Thanh Van, one of the best street food restaurants in Hanoi.

I think there’s a misconception that to find authentic food in Hanoi, you need to visit tiny, seemingly unclean places. That’s not really the case anymore, as Vietnam has seen significant improvements in living standards, and this extends to a lot of local food stalls. Many have raised their service and hygiene levels. The local places we recommend in this guide are proof that you don’t have to compromise on cleanliness to enjoy authentic Hanoi cuisine. We will also include some of the best upscale Vietnamese restaurants in Hanoi.

Regarding the international food scene in Hanoi, it’s growing but we think it is not as diverse and expansive as in Saigon. This difference also reflects the distinct personalities of the two largest cities in Vietnam.

a bowl of beef pho noodle soup with cooked beef and rare beef at Thanh Beo noodle shop in Hanoi.

Best Restaurants in Hanoi

Below is our most recent list of top restaurants to visit in Hanoi. In the next section, we will also include a list of our old favorite places that we haven’t been able to revisit for quite a while.

Phở Bò Thanh Béo

  • 📍: 36 Nguyen Du Street, Hai Ba Trung (Google Maps)

Phở Bò Thanh Béo is a newer phở house in Hanoi, compared to the OG names such as Phở Thìn, Phở Bát Đàn, Phở Sướng, or Phở Tư Lùn. We gave this place a try as it was one of the last few places that still opened on the 29th before Lunar New Year 2024. Arriving at their shop, we were greeted with the familiar aroma of beef broth, ginger, and spices, which brought back some childhood memories.

the cooking station inside Thanh Beo Pho Bo, a good beef pho stall in Hanoi.
The cooking station at Thanh Beo pho bo noodle shop

The place is pretty spacious and clean inside. It was already quite packed with locals when we arrived at 7 am. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that a lot of people had the same idea of having a steamy bowl of phở noodle soup for breakfast when it was just 14°C outside.

We were pretty happy with their beef phở: fragrant, hearty yet balanced broth (slightly salty for us, but we prefer lower sodium food than most people). You can order different cuts of beef as toppings for your bowl. We recommend the well-done beef (nạm) and rare beef from the inner part of the beef shank (lõi). The well-done beef was thinly sliced and tender, exactly the way it should be, while the rare beef from the beef shank had more texture to it. Don’t forget to order some dough sticks and poached eggs to accompany your beef phở.

a bowl of beef pho noodle soup with well-done beef and rare beef at Pho Thanh Beo noodle shop in Hanoi.

Though there are quite a few good pho places in Ho Chi Minh City, it is still a must for us to eat pho a few times whenever we return to Hanoi.

Bánh Cuốn Gia Truyền Thanh Vân

  • 📍: 14 Hang Ga Street, Hoan Kiem (original location) plus several newer locations

Bánh cuốn is a traditional Vietnamese dish consisting of steamed rice rolls, either with no filling or filled with ground pork and mushrooms. Almost every city in Vietnam has its own version or its own way of serving bánh cuốn. I find it quite amusing that people will always claim the version from their hometown is the best.

It is very difficult for us to find a bánh cuốn place we like in Saigon because the rice sheets in Saigon are not as thin and soft. So, bánh cuốn is always a must-eat for us whenever we come back to the North.

Bánh Cuốn Thanh Vân has been around for decades with a reputation for serving some of the best bánh cuốn in Hanoi, characterized by its delicate, thin, and soft rice sheets and flavorful filling. Their original location is at 14 Hàng Gà in the Old Quarter, and they have added a couple more locations nearby.

a plate of steamed rice rolls at Banh cuon Thanh Van, the best banh cuon stall in Hanoi.
Steamed rice rolls with ground pork

We went to their newer location at 128 Trần Nhật Duật, which is small and quite busy during lunchtime. We highly recommend the steamed rice rolls with ground pork and the steamed rolls with runny egg yolks. The version with eggs is a newer creation, and it is quite interesting to eat. We also tried the steamed rolls with shrimp but didn’t like them as much as the ones with pork and with eggs.

a plate of steamed rice rolls with eggs at Banh Cuon Thanh Van, the best banh cuon stall in Hanoi.
Steamed rice rolls with eggs

Phở Gà Huyền Hương

Phở Gà Huyền Hương is a long-standing establishment known for its delicious phở gà (chicken noodle soup) in Hanoi. Its location on Bao Khanh Street makes it easily accessible and a convenient choice for those who want to explore the Old Quarter and try an authentic taste of Vietnam. It is a popular spot among locals and visitors.

the cooking station on the first floor of Pho Ga Huyen Huong, one of the best chicken pho shop in Hanoi.
The cooking station at Pho Ga Huyen Huong

The chicken at this noodle shop is of good quality. It’s worth noting that the breast meat is tender, while the meat from the thighs and drumsticks tends to be chewier – a characteristic quite typical of free-range chicken in Vietnam. If you arrive near closing time, be aware that they may run out of certain parts of the chicken. Some drawbacks of this place include the broth being on the salty side and the prices being relatively high for some.

a bowl of Vietnamese chicken noodle soup at Huyen Huong, best pho ga place in Hanoi.

Tầm Vị

Tam Vi is a restaurant serving traditional Vietnamese cuisine in Hanoi, with a special focus on dishes from the Northern region of Vietnam. The interior decor features elements reminiscent of traditional homes in Northern Vietnam, enhancing the dining experience.

the interior of Tam Vi, one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Hanoi.

The restaurant prides itself on using fresh, high-quality ingredients to create dishes that are flavorful and evoke the comfort of home-cooked meals. The culinary style at Tam Vi is quite similar to that of Cuc Gach Quan, one of the best Vietnamese restaurants in Saigon.

One of the highlights of Tam Vi is its dedication to capturing the flavors of Hanoi family dining with a menu that includes a variety of traditional and humble dishes. Long told me most of the menu are dishes that his mom cooked for his family dinner. The limited selection of seafood dishes in the menu also reflects the geographical location of Hanoi.

a plate of cabbage rolls in tomato sauce at Tam Vi restaurant in Hanoi.
Pork stuffed cabbage rolls in tomato sauce
a bowl of Vegetable soup with freshwater crab at Tam Vi restaurant in Hanoi.
Vegetable soup with freshwater crab

While the taste closely resembles home cooking, the restaurant uses a bit more salt and sugar to enhance the flavors, a common practice in all restaurants. We came at lunch time, and the place was packed with both locals and visitors. If you want to experience the flavor of Hanoi home-cooking, definitely give Tam Vi a try.

Ưu Đàm Chay

Uu Dam Chay is a well-regarded vegetarian restaurant with a sophisticated and diverse menu. Our friend, who is also a Hanoian living in Saigon, recommended this restaurant to us, praising its delicious and beautifully presented food. We loved our dinner here, and we are not even vegetarian. It is probably among the best meals we’ve had in Hanoi so far this year.

This restaurant has an elegant ambiance and creative dishes that incorporate tofu, mushrooms, fruits, and a variety of vegetables prepared in ways that highlight their natural flavors. With an extensive menu, we found ourselves overwhelmed by the choices. The staff kindly gave us their recommendations, and we enjoyed everything we ordered.

a plate of assorted appetizers at Uu Dam Chay, one of the best restaurants in Hanoi.
Assorted appetizers
a plate of crispy rice at Uu Dam Chay restaurant in Hanoi.
Crispy rice with corn toppings

The highlights of our dinner include the crispy rice, fruit salad, fresh spring rolls with mango and avocado, durian creme brûlée, and the vegetarian version of the traditional Vietnamese soup with bamboo shoots, typically served during the Lunar New Year. We think Uu Dam Chay is even better than Hum, which is considered the best vegetarian restaurant in Saigon.

a bowl of Vietnamese bamboo shoot soup at Uu Dam Chay, the best vegetarian restaurant in Hanoi.
Vietnamese bamboo shoot soup

Luk Lak

  • 📍: 4A Le Thanh Tong Street, Hoan Kiem (Google Maps)

Luk Lak is a Vietnamese restaurant located near the Opera House in Hanoi. It has a diverse menu that highlights the culinary traditions of Vietnam while presenting them in a modern, sophisticated style. The restaurant caters to a wide range of tastes, including both local diners and international visitors seeking to explore Vietnamese dishes in a more upscale setting.

You can expect to find a selection of dishes, from classic Vietnamese favorites to modern, contemporary ones. While Tam Vi serves traditional home-cooked meals, Luk Lak focuses on more complex dishes, or those often enjoyed on special occasions or celebrations.

My favorite dish here is braised fish with green banana, tofu, pork belly, and Vietnamese herbs. If you want to eat bun cha in a nice and clean setting, Luk Lak is also a decent choice.

a small pot of braised fish with tofu, pork belly and herbs at LUK LAK restaurant.
Braised fish with tofu, pork belly and herbs
a plate of grilled chicken at LUK LAK restaurant.
Grilled chicken with kaffir lime leaves

Luk Lak has a second location in Da Nang. If you are going to visit the Central region of Vietnam, check out our top favorite restaurants in Da Nang.

Sen Buffet

Sen is a well-known chain of buffet restaurants in Hanoi, featuring a wide range of Vietnamese and international dishes. I remember when they first opened, the food was mostly Vietnamese cuisine, complemented by some premium grilled seafood options.

Since this is a buffet, don’t go expecting amazing or gourmet food. Instead, think of it as a place to sample a variety of Vietnamese foods and experience local dining atmosphere. Sen buffets are particularly popular with locals for special occasions and family gatherings. We are not fans of buffets, however, buffet dining with family is definitely a part of our memories.

A stall of noodle soups at Maison Sen Buffet in Hanoi.
A stall of noodle soups at Maison Sen Buffet

Over the years, this chain has expanded to include several locations across Hanoi. We recommend their two oldest establishments at Maison Sen Tran Hung Dao and Sen Tay Ho.

Additional Recommendations

In addition to the top dining spots mentioned above, here are some decent restaurants to try in Hanoi, as well as our old favorites that we haven’t had a chance to revisit for some time. You can check their recent reviews on Google to see if the food is still good.

Phở Cuốn 31 (Address: 31 Ngu Xa Street, Truc Bach)

This pho cuon shop was the favorite of mine and my old colleagues’. We used to go there pretty often in the past. Phở cuốn can be translated as phở rolls, consisting of stir-fried beef, lettuce and fresh herbs. It is definitely a must-try dish in Hanoi. The puffy pho (phở chiên phồng) and fried pho with eggs (phở chiên trứng) are also our favorites.

Chả Cá Anh Vũ (Address: Giang Vo Street, Dong Da)

Chả Cá Thăng Long (Address: 68 Duong Thanh Street, Hoan Kiem)

Chả Cá Anh Vũ and Chả Cá Thăng Long are both well-known restaurants in Hanoi, Vietnam, famous for serving chả cá. This dish is a Hanoi culinary staple that consists of seasoned fish fillets that are grilled and then sautéed with scallion and dill. We had excellent meals at these two places with friends and families in the past. You can also check out Vua Chả Cá, a popular chain of chả cá restaurants in Hanoi.

Hanoi Social Club (Address: 6 Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem)

From the first time I visited Hanoi Social Club with my friends shortly after it opened, it quickly became our favorite spot as it had a quite unique atmosphere back then. It was one of Hanoi’s best hidden gems at that time. The ambiance is distinctly bohemian, with vintage decor and rustic furnishings, creating a cozy space where people can gather and relax.

Cugini (Address: 67 To Ngoc Van Street, Tay Ho)

We visited Cugini this year as it’s currently regarded as one of the best Italian restaurants in Hanoi. The service was very good and the food was decent. We enjoyed the pate di funghi, but found that the pizza and pasta lacked a wow factor. Perhaps our expectations were too high?

Given its location near the West Lake, somewhat removed from the city center (not to mention the traffic in Hanoi), we don’t feel it’s worth going out of the way to visit Cugini. However, if you stay nearby and crave Italian food, it is a decent restaurant to visit. Just a small tip: when making a reservation, request not to be seated at one of the two tables near the restroom.

a pizza at Cugini Italian restaurant in Hanoi.
Pizza at Cugini

Cousins (2 locations: on To Ngoc Van Street and on Dao Tan Street)

Our friends in Hanoi took us to the Cousins location on To Ngoc Van Street, near the West Lake. This restaurant is also known as one of the best Western restaurants in Hanoi. We thought the food was decent, but not memorable. I guess we have been spoiled by the fantastic international food scene in Saigon. I think we will visit this restaurant again in our next trip to Hanoi.

Quan Nem (Address: Giang Vo Street, Dong Da)

This is the Hanoi location of Quan Nem, a restaurant originally from Saigon. Their specialty is the crispy square spring rolls with crab meat, which originated in Hai Phong. As someone who grew up eating this type of spring rolls in Hai Phong, I can attest that their rolls are pretty solid, good quality, and worth trying. They also serve bun cha, but we think it is only so-so.

La Place (Address: 6 Au Trieu Street, Hoan Kiem)

I recommend La Place for its fantastic location and charming ambiance. Its outdoor seating on the balcony offers picturesque views of the surroundings, including the iconic St. Joseph Cathedral. The food and drink were not memorable to us, and we haven’t been back for a long time, so please check recent reviews for more insights.

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