I recently spent a couple of days in Hanoi, where I eschewed restaurants in favor of street food. After 3 days of prowling the streets and markets, I share some findings:
My favorite sandwich was at 61 Lo Su in the Old Quarter, on the corner. The girls heap on thick gobs of delicious pate, and pile on the strips of composite meat while they chatter and gossip. (For themselves they prefer to spread pate-fat on bread and sprinkle with toasted (onions? Shallots?) while they jabber and ignore you.) This is a meaty sandwich, which is why I like it so much, so if you like a greener sandwich look elsewhere. They will also make a sandwich of scrambled egg if you prefer. Typically affordable, like 5,000VND if memory serves.
Delicious soup at 15B Le Duan, where it crosses the railroad tracks. Tiny bowls (you will prob need two or three of them) of sweet, peppery soup, served with a mountainous plate of noodles and greens on the side, and delicious pressed, grilled meatballs. The sign on the door advertises Bun and Bia Hoi. The lady out front is always grilling the meatballs, thats how you can identify this virtually unmarked storefront. 3,000VND.
For dessert, walk out the door and to your left, around the corner (do not cross the street) and about 4 storefronts down, the fruit vendor stocks the elusive mangosteen. Crush the hard rind against the wall and pull out the sweet custardy white pods.
When you get tired of sandwiches and soup, a nice assortment of meats, eggs, tofus, and vegetables over rice plus a curry or two are available at 40 Cau Go, the east-west street that hits the fountain on the north side of Hoan Kiem lake.
Fannys has delicious ice cream on the west side of Hoan Kiem Lake, cinnamon was my favorite. Café Ily in the old quarter makes a very good espresso for about 30 cents, though I doubt they use the real Italian product, and it is a great place to sit and read their Vietnam Today, and see what events are happening around town. They show movies at 8.
Hanoi Jazz Club at 31 Luong Van Can is a comfortable place to hang out among Caucasians, but the nights I went the jazz was tedious bossa nova. Maybe it gets better some nights but I doubt it. But there is a comfy lounge with sofas and a pool table, and beers are about a buck, so its a good place to recreate.
Wanna see what a big pile of butchered dogs looks like? Go to 19 December market @ 46 Ly Thuong Kiet. Take home a kilo or two of dog, or dog sausage!
Failures: I saw piles of flaxen-colored noodles (arrowroot noodles?) for sale but was unable to find any to eat. A friends Lets Go! guide described food stall heaven at the Dong Xuan market. We found the market but not the food stalls. In fact, Lets Go! and Moon Handbook were both full of plenty of bad advice and wrong addresses, Lonely Planet was the best of the books for Vietnam.
Fastest internet in town is at Sihn Café at the corner of Ta Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen. It goes even faster if you go to tools/internet options/advanced, go towards the bottom of the list, and shut off all multimedia settings.