BackEat & Drink » Saigon Hẻm Gems » [Video] Hẻm Gems: 80 Years of Cà Phê Vợt in Saigon's Oldest Cafe

[Video] Hẻm Gems: 80 Years of Cà Phê Vợt in Saigon's Oldest Cafe

Is there anything as iconically Saigon as having a cup of joe in a hẻm while watching traffic roll by?

Hidden in the heart of District 3’s “chessboard” neighborhood - a network of intersecting alleys that can easily bewilder first-timers in town - Cheo Leo Café is more than just a street coffee shop: it’s a Saigon landmark, a family heirloom and a cultural hangout all rolled into one simple shopfront.

Saigoneer speaks to cô Suong, one of the café’s proprietor – the other two are her sisters, to find out the story behind the city’s oldest coffee shop. Suong’s father, Vinh Ngo, started selling cà phê vợt in the shop in 1938. Cà phê vợt means “stocking coffee,” a direct reference to a cloth filter the family uses to strain coffee ground.

This method is popular among stalls operated by those of Chinese descent in old Saigon, before French-style filters – or phin in Vietnamese – started dominating the market. Over the past eight decades, Cheo Leo has gained a reputation among Saigon’s coffee lovers for its sole focus on coffee flavor sans embellishment.

For the three sisters, running Cheo Leo is less about making a profit and more about keeping their father’s legacy going; the fame they've gotten over the years is just a nice bonus.

Learn the story of Suong through the video below or read the full story behind Cheo Leo in our previous Hẻm Gems piece here.

Cheo Leo Cafe is located at 109/36 Nguyen Thien Thuat, Ward 2, District 3.

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