The town of Sapa in Vietnam is a popular stop for most tourists who arrive from Hanoi on the overnight trains. With the surrounding mountains and tribal villages, not to mention the mighty Mt. Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina, it is quite understandable why Sapa is so popular with hikers, climbers and travelers looking for markets and cultural immersion with the hill tribes.
Given that Sapa is no stranger to tourists and the post-colonial French influence (freshly baked baguettes, anyone?), it’s no surprise that this little town is dotted with many good restaurants serving local and international (mostly French or Italian and some American) cuisine. If you’re planning your trip and worried about where to eat in Sapa, quit worrying because there are plenty of options, even for vegetarians. You can even get a Doner Kebab if you fancy one! However the price range varies greatly depending upon if the place is targeted towards tourists (most are) or also welcomes locals and expats.
I spent some time volunteering with a wonderful organization called Sapa O’Chau, and ended up trying a lot of different restaurants during my time in Sapa. Personally the joy of travel is incomplete without memorable food experiences and Sapa provided plenty of those. Finding good places to eat out in Sapa was something I did by trial-and-error (I ate out every day for the weeks I was there). Here’s a list of my top 5 restaurants in Sapa for a truly delicious meal, all varying in price and cuisine. At the time of writing, a filling local meal with a starter, side and main dish would cost you about $4-5 and an additional $2-3 for a glass of wine. International cuisine is understandably slightly more expensive.
1. Antique Sapa 22A, Phan Xi Pang, Sapa
A simple and high value for money restaurant that does a very good Set Menu. Now a lot of restaurants in Sapa try to attract tourists with local Set Menus that are about $4-5 that consist of a starter, main dish and beverage (hot wine or tea) but not all of them are comparable in terms of taste, quality or portion size. Antique Sapa ranks very high on all of these and has one of the best Set Menus with generous portions and meals that will make you fall in love with local food.
2. Nature View 051, Fansipan Street, Sapa
One of the pricier and fancier restaurants in Sapa, but totally worth it. This places scores on its excellent ambience, delicious food and quick and friendly service. It serves both local and international cuisine and even does a good Set Menu. I definitely saw more tourists here than locals, probably because of the price range. I particularly enjoyed the chicken sautéed in lemongrass and basil (pictured below), the yogurt sautéed chicken was equally good. They also had a decent number of vegetarian options on the menu so I’d say this is one of those places to eat in Sapa that vegetarians will like eating at.
3. Little Sapa 18, Cau May, Sapa
Little Sapa is best for its truly authentic and very reasonable Vietnamese food. The prices are among the lowest in Sapa town (meals cost $2-$5) and the quality of food is still very high. The staff does not speak a lot of English so be patient while ordering, they do understand and get it right most of the time. The restaurant sees a good mix of local patrons and tourists. It dishes out what was my favorite Pho-ga (Chicken noodle soup) during my time in Vietnam. The fiery garlic sauce that sits on all tables is a great accompaniment to most dishes.
Other recommendations: Fish spring rolls, Tofu and vegetables in tomato gravy (pictured below) and the Vegetable Curry.