Backpacker institution Beer Minh's is worth the occasional visit. Of all the budget tourist restaurants in Hanoi's old quarter, this joint remains top of the heap. The view over the rustic delapidation of the surrounding structures and chaotic streetscape of motorbike mechanics, market stalls and full-to-over-flowing garbage carts is a show that attracts a full house to this balcony most nights. From this vantage point, I've witnessed floods, exploding fuse boxes and people throwing rubbish out of their second floor windows. Little human dramas unfold every other minute. Given the choice of watching VTV in a hotel room and being here in Minh's dress circle, I know where I'd rather be.
The problem is that the entertainment is so good that ordering from the tome that is the menu is a hard ask. To some, it would be a two beer peruse. In part, it offers up a spread of western snacks that bore the undies off me but no doubt satisfy others for a ton of very good reasons. Toasted sandwiches, spaghetti bolognese, pizza, banana pancakes and hamburgers can all be had. The other chapters read like a chant: beef with lemongrass and chili, chicken with lemongrass and chili, pork with lemongrass and chilli, prawns with lemongrass and chili....read the beef section and you've read it all, if you know what I mean.
It's all pretty good.
A nice salad can be ordered. They have spring rolls and options for vegetarians. The beer is cold, kept on ice in big tin boxes. A lot of what they do here, they get right. The staff are competent, friendly, not on auto-pilot. Minh, herself, is a legend, a generous woman who remembers her patrons and has a constant smile on her dial. She issues invitations to special events and shouts everyone a beer on New Year's Day.
Business is booming, too. Recent expansion downstairs is fancy with coloured retro lampshades, air-conditioning and artwork. Minh's beaming with pride. But it just isn't Beer Minh's down there. In time, it might be.
Best to be up that creaky wooden staircase, leaning over the balcony rails with beer in hand and hours to kill.
Draught beers - 7000VND, Bottled beers from 10,000VND (USD62c, AUD85c), Main dishes from 20,000VND (USD$1.25, AUD$1.70)
Dinh Liet Street