Vietnamese Cafes: A Guide to Little Saigon for the...Coffee Lover

So you love coffee, and you love girls even more. Little Saigon is well known for its Vietnamese cafes, which feature beautiful girls serving you coffee and other drinks. Some cafés feature girls in bikinis or sexy lingerie walking around on 5 inch heels, hence they are often called 'bikini cafés' or 'lingerie cafés' by westerners. Some cafes are little more conservative with girls wearing ‘ao dai’ (traditional Vietnamese dress) or something not so revealing. In general, when locals speak about these cafes, the word ‘coffee shop’ will suffice.

Vietnamese coffee shops have been around for decades in America, and come from Vietnam’s culture and love of coffee and doing nothing but relaxing. In Vietnam coffee shops can be found on practically every street, but the whole bikini idea is actually a product of Vietnamese Americans, as you will not find bikini cafes in Vietnam. What can we say...it's Southern California and we love bikinis here. The cafes may have gotten their inspirations from places such Hooters or sports bar which rely on beautiful girls and their sexy bodies and outfits to attract customers.

Whatever the case, the formula works and many customers end up leaving the cafés singing “pretty young girls on my mind how I wish you could be mine." There are many Vietnamese coffee shops in Little Saigon and most customers will return to the one with the girls they favor.  Many will try their hand at courting a coffee shop girl knowing full well of the repercussions of dating a girl in this business. It is not a difficult feat, but your head needs to be in the right place. It’s definitely not for the jealous type as all the customers know it is the café girls’ jobs to talk to and attract male customers by walking around in sexy outfits. That is the reason why most came in the first place.

Now not everyone goes to the Vietnamese cafes for the eye candy. Many will go just to hang out with their friends, have some drinks or to watch sports, anything to pass the time in the boring suburban life. Some will play cards or chess while others may be gambling…they sell lottery tickets and have games such as Hot Spot at most of the cafes.  Some people bring their laptops to do work or…whatever it is they do with it.

Girls are the primary attraction at the Vietnamese cafes but the café needs to make money off their menu. Most cafés primarily sell drinks such coffee and smoothies. Recently some cafés in Orange County have begun adding food items to their menus, such as sandwiches or appetizers. This is nothing new though as the Vietnamese cafes in San Jose (Northern California’s ‘Little Saigon’) have been serving food, as well as beer, for some time.

First Imressions

So what can you expect if you have never been to a Vietnamese café?  When you first walk in you may feel intimidated as the customers are primarily male from the entry age of 18 to seniors. There are old and young guys, business men, thug looking guys, guys from all walks of life and races although predominantly Vietnamese. You may feel like all the guys are staring at you as you look for an open table. The place can be smoky if it’s crowded so bring a gas mask if that bothers you. As sit down, one of the girls will approach you and ask you what you want to drink. You may be stunned for a moment, losing all thought, as y­ou look up and gaze upon the sight before you. Some girls may leave little to the imagination, keeping you transfixed upon all that ‘heavenly glory,’ while others may crack a smile and shine upon you like an angel with eyes of green. As you regain your senses, you will realize that she asked you what you want to drink. In general, since you are a ‘coffee lover,’ you should order ‘Cà phê sữa đá,’ which is iced Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk, the most common drink ordered.  If you don’t like coffee then there are other drinks such as strawberry, avocado, or mango smoothies, orange juice and other fruit drinks.

Settling In

Now that you are settled into your seat and have made your order, you can gaze around the room and check out all the waitresses.  You will probably also notice and say to yourself “Damn there’s a lot dudes in here!”  But all that intimidation you felt early slowly dissipates as you realize people are just watching the flats screen which are placed all around the room.  Music will be blaring in the background if there isn’t an important sports game on. A variety of tunes will be in the mix including Vietnamese, hip hop, pop and electronic music.

As you wait for your drink to be made by the waitress you ordered from, another girl will come by and bring a glass of iced tea. They also have hot tea if you prefer. This glass may seem unimportant since you just ordered a drink, but it’s actually a great way to get one of the girls to come over if you want to talk to them. The girls frequently walk around the café carrying jugs… of tea or water to fill up any glass as soon as you’ve taken a sip from it. Try it out.  Just take a few drinks of your tea and sure enough a girl will come by to fill you up. Now that’s service!

When your order finally comes out, if you ordered the iced coffee you will see that it comes out in a small little glass half full with ice. You have to stir the coffe to mix the condensed milk at the bottom.  When you take your first sip of the coffee you’ll probably yell out ‘”damn this coffee is strong!” Yes, Vietnamese coffee is usually thick and strong. These coffee drinks are made for sippin’ not drinking and thus explains the small glass. Take a drink of tea to help wash the coffee down.

Now that you have your order you can just relax and look at the girls or watch TV. If you have a friend you can also talk to each or just sit there and play with your phone. If your reason for going to the café was to meet girls, then you can also try your luck talking with the girls. It’s usually a hit or miss for most guys, some girls can be very friendly and even sit and talk to you while others won’t give you the time of day. There are usually about four girls or more working. Unless you like one particular girl, a good time to go may be right before 3 pm which is usually the time when the girls change shift. This gives you a shot at all the girls working there for the day. Most coffee shops are open from around 7am or 8 am in the morning until 10 or 11pm at night. In general, just be yourself when talking to the girls and always treat them with respect. It’s best to just enjoy your time relaxing and not fall in love.

The Exit

After you have finished with your coffee or drink and feel you’ve had enough, you can make your way to the front counter to pay for your table. A cup of coffee is usually $5 and smoothies about $7. Don’t forget to tip! Tip according to service and bill. A couple dollars per drink should be fine. Just leave your tip on the table. Now you can make your way out. Don’t expect good byes or hugs, although if you become friends with them it’s normal.

If you haven’t had enough and feel the need to look at more girls then you may choose to go ‘coffee shopping hopping’ as some call it. Like bar hopping, you go from one café to the next to check out the talent. A good starting point for this may be on Euclid street where a few coffee shops are in very close proximity to each other. You can start out at cafe Di Vang and then walk your way to Starz Café. MC cutie is right down the street also within walking distance but it’s probably better to drive there. If you still haven’t had enough after 3 cafes, you can go to Café 168 and the notorious Café Lu both on Harbor Blvd. two streets east of Euclid. By this time you should be pretty wired from all the coffee and it may be time to call it a day.

Browse Vietnamese Coffee Shops