3 August, 2017
443/205B Lê Văn Sỹ, District 3, Hồ Chí Minh (approximately)
Wifi Password: 88889999
This is a departure from most of my reviews in that Xe Café is just a local storefront coffee shop with no air conditioning. It’s larger than many house-front shops, and better decorated too. The murals on the wall were probably painted by an amateur, but are well done, depicting various places in Hanoi and Saigon. For seating you have the option of Vietnam’s standard tiny wooden benches with small tables, or some Asian-style floor seating (I don’t know the proper term for it, sorry) with shorter tables. The menu is limited to about three items each under the categories of “Coffee,” “Trà” (tea), “Yaourt” (yogurt drink), “Nước ép” (juice), and “Soda.” So far as I can tell, it’s administered solely by one woman, a friendly character who, if you don’t speak Vietnamese, will identify herself as Helen. Her English skills are imperfect, but more than sufficient to communicate. Despite the address, it’s best to describe this shop as being on a side street of Trường Sa street, on the west side of the Co.op-mart supermarket.
I’ve been here quite a lot, but only in the morning, so I don’t know what luck you’ll have in the afternoon or evening. The coffee is generally good, but does vary in quality from day to day. Why do I frequent a coffee shop with no A/C and less-than-ideal seating? Actually, mainly because it’s two doors down from one of the best phở shops I have found, and also because it’s close to my house. (Check out the aforementioned noodle shop – they serve both phở and bún noodle soups and do it in more of a northern style, with less sugar added to the broth. They’re only open for the morning rush, though – if you arrive at 10am, you’ll already be too late.)
Occasionally you may strike up a conversation with one of the regulars who speak a little English. As I’ve said before, Vietnamese often like to practice their English when the happen across a Westerner. Oh, and I almost forgot: the prices are the best you’ll find outside a street-cart setting. My iced black coffee runs 14,000 đ – about $0.62 U.S. If you get it with sugar or milk, it’s just a few đồng more.
Verdict: I recommend coming here in the morning before the temperature gets too hot. Grab a bowl of phở first, then relax and cool off with one of Helen’s nice coffees.