Most people have their favorite bia hoi restaurant/ corner, and will swear by it. It has the best snacks, the best baked peanuts, the best looking beer delivery girls…Whatever the reason, people find themselves going back to them same bia hoi restaurant again and again.
For that reason, I’ve asked various types of beer lovers I know or work with, from 10 years-in-Hanoi expats to freshly entering Vietnam tourists. I asked them what they think about bia hoi and if possible (and enough experience) tell me about their favorite bia hoi restaurant in Hanoi.
Apart from the one closest to alcoholic who said they go to bia hoi 5-6 times a week (that would be me if I have enough free time), the majority of people asked were much more miserly about their bia hoi visit. Collecting the answers from the judges, here are the top 3 bia hoi places in Hanoi voted by expats and tourists.
The clear winner is Bia Hoi 68 on Quang An, Tay Ho. Obviously it has nothing to do with the high number of expats who live around the corner from it. Expats like beer, no question about it. Who doesn’t like beer anyway?
The silver medal goes to anywhere in Ta Hien. If nothing else, the ambiguity of this winner just goes to show that our judges recognize that bia hoi is very much about the atmosphere.
The bia hoi in third place receives its award posthumously. The now-demolished Bia Hoi Hanoi at 5 To Ngoc Van was held in high regard by locals and foreigners alike, who gathered just as much for a glimpse of Soda Kid as they did for the brews.
One detail shining from my survey is that less than half of the judges say they would choose to drink at bia hoi over other types of bar. This say a lot about the quality of the food offered at even the evarage bia hoi.
Reasons for going to bia hoi given by bia hoi lovers
-“The best local food is often served in bia hoi”
-“Hot girls and cheap beer”
-“Cheap, and always great atmosphere”
-“The perfect Hanoi experience”
But not everyone is sold on bia hoi. One common complaint is the lack of proper chairs, as well as more general need for comfort- this include less noise, better music (no just simply no music at all) and better cleaned toilets. But then again you can never compare a place where 1 dollar can buy you 3 beer with a fancy restaurant. That’s part of the game I always say.
Bia hoi places are not comfortable for women, is another complaint. Understandable, considering the loutish behavior on display once a few glasses of brew have been knocked back. Meanwhile several judges mentioned of their preference for good wine and a gentler ambience, others are more direct about the problem of hygiene.
Overall, bia hoi give you the scoots. From what? You decided!
Extra reading about Hanoi Bia hoi:
By Pham Tuyen